Basarwa of Ranyane settlement in Gantsi District on Tuesday won a last minute interim order barring government authorities in the district from relocating them from their ancestral land.
Last week Khwedom Council, an organisation representing the interests of Basarwa in Botswana issued a statement alleging that the government was planning to remove residents of Ranyane from their ancestral home to Bere in the Gantsi District to make way for commercial farms in the area. The organisation also alleged that government is planning to wipe out the Basarwa community by forcing them to assimilate into the dominant Tswana culture. This week following reports that the government authorities [in the district] were planning to force the residents to relocate from Ranyane and demolish their houses, lawyers Kitso Phiri, Onalethata Kambai and Jerome Matomela made an urgent application before High Court Judge Lot Moroka to stop Gantsi Land Board, Gantsi District Council and the Gantsi District Commissioner from relocating the residents of Ranyane.
The residents were granted the interim order after their lawyers advanced that the removal would deny them rights to stay in Ranyane, that they would suffer irreparable damages should they be removed and that there was no other alternative relief other than the high court. According to the lawyers the temporary relief forced the government authorities against relocating the residents. Both parties are however expected to appear before court on 18 June this year to present their arguments. According to Ranyane’s lawyers they had to move swiftly on Saturday and visited the settlement after they received reports that GDC officers had reached a decision to relocate the residents without prior consultation.
Phiri, who is also Ditshwanelo’s resident lawyer, told The Midweek Sun that over the weekend the three lawyers met with over 300 Ranyane residents who all opposed the relocation. “The truth is that most people in Ranyane are against this forced relocation,” said Phiri on Tuesday. He said that they are waiting to see whether the government will challenge the court order. Talking to The Midweek Sun Khwedom director Keikabile Mogodu rejoiced at the temporary relief saying that the suspension of the relocation is something that will be welcomed by the residents of Ranyane who are desperate to remain at their ancestral home. “The suspension will further give us an opportunity to engage the government and advance reasons why residents of Ranyane feel that they should not be moved from their place of residence,” he said adding that residents have been residing in the area for decades.
Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay said on Tuesday evening that the government was not aware of any temporary relief won by the Basarwa, stressing that as far as they are concerned there are no plans to forcibly relocate Basarwa from Ranyane. He said the government is not worried by the lies peddled by some organisations that they are planning to relocate Basarwa. In a statement issued to the media on Tuesday, Ramsay blamed Survival International, Open Society Initiative For Southern Africa and Khwedom Council for launching a media campaign to discredit the government of Botswana. He maintains that intensive consultations were conducted including five Kgotla meetings between local authorities and Ranyane residents who wished to relocate. While the lawyers and Khwedom maintain that Ranyane has over 600 residents, the government this week said that the settlement has 182 residents according to the 2011 population census.