The family of three Namibian fishermen and their Zambian cousin, fatally shot by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) last week along the Chobe River, claimed the soldiers killed the unarmed men “execution style”.
A nephew of the victims, Reagan Malumo, shot down assertions by the BDF that the slain fishermen were poachers.
He said the three brothers were well-known for their fishing and that they were law-abiding citizens.
“Yesterday (Monday), our family members went to Kasane to identify the bodies – and from the version they told us, all four of them were shot in the head, ‘execution style’. So if one has to say they were poachers and they were exchanging bullets, it is completely unbelievable that each one of them had to be shot on the head,” Malumo told President Hage Geingob and some senior Cabinet members during a hastily arranged meeting.
“As family members, we are very worried that the Namibian government is telling us the Botswana version of events without our own government investigating the matter.
We feel as children whose military has turned against us,” an emotional Malumo added. He also said the bodies were being kept at a mortuary in Botswana where the family understands the facility is not functioning well and fear the condition of the bodies may be compromised before post-mortems are conducted. “This is a deliberate attempt by the Botswana Defence Force to try and hide the gunshot wounds,” he said.
Wamunyima (36), Martin (40) and Tommy Nchindo (48) and their Zambian cousin Sinvula Munyeme (44) were gunned down by the BDF on Thursday night between Impalila Island and the Kasika village on the Chobe River. Malumo explained fishing at night was not an unusual practice among fishermen.
The brutal shooting has been widely condemned back home, with opposition parties calling on government to act over the “cold-blooded killing”. Geingob said he has spoken to his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has extended his condolences to the family and has agreed to a joint investigation by the two countries into the matter.
He also allayed fears that Namibia and Botswana are headed for a diplomatic row over the shooting. “The shooting incident by the Botswana Defence Force, in which four Namibians from the same family lost their lives, is deeply regrettable,” said Geingob.
“Prior to my meeting today with the bereaved family of the deceased, I had a telephone conversation with President Mokgweetsi Masisi to discuss the incident.
“I assured the bereaved family that this unfortunate incident is receiving the utmost attention it deserves from the relevant authorities in our two countries.”
Botswana had adopted a shoot-to-kill policy in 2013 as a measure to curb the poaching of its wildlife.
However, following his ascendance to office, Masisi in 2018 ordered the withdrawal of military-grade arms from the country’s anti-poaching units. The country appeared to have resumed the controversial policy after suspected poachers were gunned down in April last year.
International relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah yesterday said when she held a meeting with her Botswana counterpart in May this year, they agreed to put on hold the shoot-to-kill policy.
“We agreed that the situation cannot go on like that with the shoot-to-kill policy. From that point, we even went to the position of issuing a joint statement to make clear the position of the two governments,” she said.
“Nevertheless, this afternoon (yesterday), I had a meeting with the Botswana High Commissioner in Namibia just to recall that meeting because I was of the understanding that the policy was agreed to be put on hold.”
PDM leader McHenry Venaani in an open letter to Geingob and Nandi-Ndaitwah said the conduct of political, economic or cultural relations between Namibia and Botswana should be put aside so that government can provide a listening ear to hundreds of Namibians who are advocating for actions against the barbaric killings. Zambezi regional governor Lawrence Sampofu also condemned the killing, saying it is unacceptable and can be avoided. “We condemn the killings of our people by the BDF. The incident is really not good for the neighbourhood.
They could have at least arrested them instead of shooting them,” he said. “The residents in the region are really angry. They feel they are not protected by the government because the BDF is just killing our people. These people were just found near the river and not poaching.”