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Opinion: Of Namibia-Botswana Border Treaty contentions

2021-06-18  Staff Reporter

Opinion: Of Namibia-Botswana Border Treaty contentions

We wish to respond on the issue relating to the Namibia-Botswana Border Treaty as follows: The Mafwe and the Mayeyi traditional authorities in the Zambezi region wrote in The Namibian dated 17 May 2021 showing their concerns about the border treaty of 2018 between Namibia and Botswana. 

The chiefs reasoned that their communities are living in constant fear as the neighbouring country increases military activity along the Chobe River. They argue that they were not consulted, and that Botswana has taken over their land. 

We have neighbours such as Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, yet Namibia has never encountered any aggression from all these neighbouring countries except Botswana. Botswana has never had any boundary issues with other neighbouring states, except Namibia. 

We also agree with our leaders and the Namibian people that our traditional leaders’ claim to have learnt about this only through the media is true, because it seems that after this decision, Botswana took aggressive steps against Namibians, as they have been systematically doing in rejecting the rule of law governing individual states regarding international boundaries, as history confirms of this; and put their defence force to man islands and land of their interest in Namibia. 

All Namibian chiefs responsible in leading our different tribes that form our nation are regarded as leaders for each and every single Namibian regardless of where they find themselves, because they are regarded as the custodians of the people who elected them and put them in power to serve their interests, including the land they have responded on. We respect them as our chiefs and leaders with the same respect for all two nations in contention. 

It is just six months ago that we lost our five precious souls from that region of Namibia and it is so strange that the treaty that was consultative would have resulted in us losing such precious souls caused by Botswana. The Namibian constitution Chapter 3 on Fundamental Human Rights should be viewed in that regard as protecting humans and their right to live. Botswana got their independence on 30 September 1966 freely and never lost any soul through a liberation movement like Namibia did and now Namibia has to start another liberation movement with Botswana’s aggression on taking piece by piece of our precious land. 

When Namibia freed the country and gained her independence of 21 March 1990, she was to fight for every inch of Namibia including all these disputed islands such as Kasikili and the other boundary demarcations being now disputed based on the geo-informational data, trigonometrical beacons, latitudes and longitudes which are mathematical and scientific and cannot be altered by any means through abrasion, topographical or geophysical metamorphosis. 

Magistrate Trollope, in 1951 represented South West Africa while Bechuanaland was represented by McLaren from Kasane. There was no consensus reached about the course of the main channel of the Chobe River. 

In the year (1952) that followed, Trollope and his counterpart from Kasane again went into inspections to the same area accompanied by the local people who knew the geography of the area well. The inspection was engaged when the water level was low and this made it possible to determine the channel south of the island clearly as not wider, but very deep than the channel on the Caprivi Strip side. 

As a result of this, the right of possession of this island was then given in favour of the Caprivi Strip in accordance with traditional common law (Fisch, 1999:28; Bradshaw, 1880; Bradshaw, 1881:208-212, Seiner, 1906). And this readily allows for no further demarcations or taking the case to the ICJ. 

This was duly the respect of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty Article III of 1 July 1890 and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), present African Union (AU), 1964, regarding international boundaries not Botswana hoisting their flag and stationing soldiers in 1992 on the disputed Island Kasikili. This dispute was then settled informally in November 1952 by the two governments via informal reports submitted by the responsible commissioners at Katima Mulilo and Kasane to their governments, respectively (Fisch, 1999:28). “The legal advisors at the time failed to reach a final decision and only cautiously and circumspectly offered their point of view: right of use did not automatically guarantee territorial rights, but might lead to right of possession, particularly since the island had for generations undisputedly been used by the Caprivi inhabitants and was generally considered to be their property “as Fish (1999:30) clearly puts it (Report of the Legal Commission of 12 June 1948).

Thus, declaring the ICJ judgment of 13 December 1999, resting on shaky grounds, to be marred with fallacies and sheer follies. The same ignorance from national boundaries which affected the Caprivi Strip in the east and southern parts, because of the loss of Kasikili Island in 1995 through shaky, sheer, unconstructive, inconclusive arguments and lack of information from Botswana is now encroaching to take more land by force as done with the Kasikili Island. 

According to Fisch (1999:26-34), the Anglo-German agreement of 1 July 1890 as stated earlier, the southern border of the Caprivi was determined as follows: from the point of intersection of the meridian 210 east longitude and 180 south latitude, the southern boundary runs along the 18th line of latitude to the east in a straight line until it meets the Chobe River.” From there, the boundary line follows the talweg of the main channel of this river up to its confluence with the Zambezi River. 

As time went by, there were disputes of the Lumbo Island, which is located south-west of Ngoma and Sisekesabanyai and Nankole (present day Ibbu). The people from the Caprivi Strip were the ones cultivating on this island for many years and this was not disputed by the government of Botswana until 1951. 

This dispute of 1951 came as a result of the policeman named Musweu from Botswana who found the people of the Caprivi Strip ploughing on this island and then ordered them to stop working. He further did not permit them to take their oxen back to the mainland, alleging that Lumbo Island was not belonging to the Caprivi Strip. 

He even went to an extent of further cautioning the village headman of those found working there without the blessing of his superiors (Fisch, 1999:27-28). These complaints were so intense that the people who were chased in the island prompted a joint inspection by district officials from both countries. 

Interestingly, the people of Bechuanaland started marking their fields to the east of Muntunjobuswa Island whilst those in the Caprivi cultivated the western parts of the same island. At South Africa taking over the control of South West Africa in 1929, Britz, the new Superintendent of the Caprivi, managed to instruct that the new political change had taken effect and ordered people of Bechuanaland not to cultivate in the islands immediately after the harvest of that particular year (Fisch, 1999:29; LKM3/3/4, N1/15). Although this order was still being repeated even over the next fourteen years by the other officials of the South African government posted to the Caprivi Strip to govern following each other, the people of Bechuanaland returned every October to cultivate their fields and even also went on to build their huts on the island. As events progressed, Magistrate Trollope of Katima Mulilo took drastic steps in 1944 in which he had few of the Bechuanaland transgressors arrested and later released on payment of a fine. The desired yields on the matter were soon achieved and the land became free and handed over to the natives of the Caprivi. There were no further discussions or claims by Bechuanaland on this land matters and it was closed that way. So, one wonders where these renewed claims emanate from today. 


2021-06-18  Staff Reporter

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