Uproar as Gov’t relocates Letlhakane/Orapa Basarwa

• Rich family claim ownership of a borehole drilled for Basarwa by De Beers
• Family says Basarwa cemetery bones are contaminating the borehole

TEFO PHEAGE

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The near one hundred Basarwa from South East District settlements have been forced to leave the residential area in which they have lived for decades- to be integrated into Letlhakane, a move they say also forces them to leave their buried ancestors behind.
The residents were initially relocated decades ago when De Beers started operating the Letlhakane/Orapa mine.
The Basarwa facing relocation say they want to be assured of land in Letlhakane before they can be relocated from their settlements. The relocation has already taken place according to the area Member of Parliament -Sethomo Lelatisitswe who also said that the move is part of the government’s plan to integrate Basarwa into mainstream society for ease of assistance and accessibility.
“They settled in the cattle posts surrounding Letlhakane over decades ago and that in a way turned to be their homes but things are not easy as they were back then. Some of the owners of those chunks of land want them out and there are already court cases on going on as we speak,” Lelatisitswe said.
Asked about whether they have already been allocated residential plots, Lelatisitswe said there are challenges, “It’s not easy, as you may be aware, a typical family of the Basarwa tribe can comprise of 15 people and the challenge here is that after relocation each member now demands a plot or land,” he pointed out but added that plans are in place to see how they can be assisted.
“All stakeholders have been engaged to make sure that the relocation process runs smoothly,” he added.
Basarwa however say they do not want to be subjected to any form of struggle because life has been good in the bush until empty promises were made to them to entice them away.
“We have heard reports that the mine is being extended to our settlements hence the relocations but nobody wants to tell us the truth. Recently we were told that our burial sites were closed and that we should not bury there anymore and we knew something was coming,” said Cgeck Garry, Botswana Khoedom Council activist staying in the area.
Last Friday, Botswana Khoedom Council leadership visited the area and were informed that the root of the dispute emanates from a dispute over a borehole drilled by De Beers for Basarwa at the time of the initial relocations.
Speaking to Botswana Gazette, the Director of Botswana Khoedom Council, Keikabile Mogodu said they have gathered that one family that recently settled in the area-Makolwane might have registered the borehole in their name.
“We have been informed that they are now chasing away Basarwa saying their burial sites are now contaminating the borehole. We have mounted an investigation into the matter and we will get to the bottom of the matter,” Mogodu said.
The Basarwa have been surviving through mobile clinics, boreholes and other services, some of which they say have since been withdrawn as a tactic to push them out. Efforts to speak to other stakeholders were futile at the time of going to press as their phones ran unanswered.