Namibia: Zambezi Chiefs Fear More Botswana Army Shootings

THE Mafwe and Mayeyi traditional authorities in the Zambezi region are refusing to recognise the legality of the border treaty of 2018 between Namibia and Botswana, saying their communities are living in constant fear as the neighbouring country increases military activity along the Chobe River.

In recent weeks communities along the river have reported Botswana Defence Force (BDF) helicopters hovering over Namibian skies.

Last week BDF soldiers pointed loaded rifles at innocent, unarmed Namibians and international visitors at Ngoma along the shared part of the Chobe River on the Namibian side.

The border treaty was signed in 2018 by president Hage Geingob.

The traditional leaders claim to have learnt about this through the media only.

Both chief George Mamili VII and chief Shikati Shifu of the Mafwe and Mayeyi traditional authorities, respectively, claim they were never consulted when the treaty was signed.

"If the territorial boundary dispute is not resolved we are going to face a disastrous situation. If this problem of occupation is not resolved, many lives will be lost to shootings by the BDF as it has been in the past," Shifu said yesterday.

Mamili, in a letter written to Geingob recently, said the Mafwe people were not consulted on their land and borders.

"Secondly, our people have not given their consent and approval of the new boundaries we only heard of from the surveyor general," he stated in the letter.

The traditional leaders are now demanding that the border treaty agreement be cancelled, because it does not reflect the historical narrative of the ancient borders between Namibia and Botswana.

Shifu, in a petition to prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, said Botswana officials have installed beacons within his traditional territory without consulting the district indunas (headmen) in the affected areas.

Beacons have been installed at Linyanti, Kapani, Singobeka, Maunga, Batubaja, Mbilajwe, Silonga and Malengalenga.

According to him, the BDF has already set up camps and started with patrols on the new borders on the islands of Kaxharu, Xidanu, Mbara, Manxha, Shilimbeka, Hanxhiye, Makuyu amwanamushkwa, Dzoti, Pomboro, Shigabali, Mpanga, Linvuvu, and Shikaku.

"They have erected tents on our land as a sign of occupation. The BDF currently denies us access to the Linyanti River, despite it flowing through Namibia and Botswana. Numerous islands on which our livelihoods depend have already been occupied," said Shifu.

He called on the government to produce the latest boundary map and interpret the Boundary Treaty of 2018 to the people of the Zambezi region in layman's terms.

Shifu also asked that the boundary map be verified against the legitimate original boundaries.

He further requested that the prime minister instruct the Namibian Defence Force to set up camp along the border as opposed to living among civilians.

In a letter to Namibia's deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Mamili was not impressed with her recent consultations in the region.

Last week, Nandi-Ndaitwah was consulting communities ahead of Botswana's minister of international relations' planned visit in the coming weeks.

Mamili expressed doubt about the true intentions of Ndaitwah's engagements, saying they are taking place while aggression continues unabatedly by the BDF.

"We are amazed at the rushed pace at which the border treaty issue is taking place, while the border hostility by the BDF continues to be treated as a non-emergency. How many more lives would matter before things change?" he asked, adding that the people living along the Chobe River live in constant fear when fetching water from the river or when herding their livestock.

State House press secretary Alfredo Hengari said he would respond today to queries. "I am currently out of town and should consult the dossier at the office (before responding)," he said yesterday afternoon.

Both Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Nandi-Ndaitwah did not respond to phone calls and messages sent to them at the time of going to print.

ITULA WEIGHS IN

Meanwhile, Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) leader Panduleni Itula this weekend said the government's decision to enter into a border treaty in 2018 with Botswana without consulting the traditional authorities is in breach of constitutional provisions.

"If you do not respect the people of this nation, you do not qualify to lead them. We also need to understand that integrity is fundamental to our people and to our country. Never throughout that entire history was the border of Namibia in the Zambezi region with Botswana regarded as a disputed territory. It is wrong and unaccepted that a demarcation of our country was agreed upon by pulling a line across without consulting the traditional leaders," he said, opening the IPC's Khomas regional conference in Windhoek.

Itula said his party would therefore not accept the border as determined in 2018 "until our leaders in those areas have been properly consulted".

He said the IPC would renegotiate the border if it takes power after the 2024 national elections.

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