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Namibia-Botswana border treaty no secret - Kawana

2021-05-31  Albertina Nakale

Namibia-Botswana border treaty no secret - Kawana
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The government has refuted widespread allegations that no consultation took place with the Zambezi inhabitants regarding the signed Namibia-Botswana Boundary Treaty of 2018.

This comes after accusations from some citizens from the Zambezi region, including chiefs, alleging there was no consultation before the conclusion of the 2018 Boundary Treaty between Namibia and Botswana.

Of particular concern, 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.  They reasoned that their communities are living in constant fear as the neighbouring country increases military activity along the Chobe River.

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

Both chiefs George Mamili VII and Shikati Shifu of the Mafwe and Mayeyi traditional authorities claimed they were never consulted when the treaty was signed.

Safety and security minister Albert Kawana defended the government’s position that from the beginning to the end, the process was transparent and in line with the letter and spirit of the Namibian Constitution. 

“There is no such thing as a secret treaty that was entered into by the Namibian government with the government of Botswana,” he said.

To clarify the issue, Kawana said it is important to inform the nation that before the conclusion of the aforesaid treaty, the Namibian government and that of Botswana agreed.

 The agreement deals with the establishment and the terms of reference of the joint commission of technical experts on the delimitation and demarcation of the boundary between Botswana and Namibia along the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe River, signed by the contracting parties on 24 November 1999.

The main purpose of the joint commission was to delimit and demarcate the boundary between Botswana and Namibia along the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe River in terms of the Anglo-German Agreement of 1 July 1890.

Before the inaugural meeting of the joint commission of technical experts, Kawana noted consultation meetings were held with the then three traditional authorities, which were then in existence, namely the Masubia, the Mafwe and the Mayeyi.

Kawana, who was part of the technical team, defended that some members of the traditional authorities were flown by helicopters that belonged to the water affairs and Namibian Defence Force (NDF) along the entire stretch of the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe River.

“The involvement of the traditional authorities was also coordinated with the honourable governor of Zambezi (then Caprivi region), Bernard Songa Sibalatani. In contrast with the boundary along the Zambezi River, which was properly delimited and then demarcated around 1933, the Kwando/Liyanti/Chobe River boundary was not demarcated. The demarcation of the Zambezi River boundary identified 33 islands,” Kawana explained.

By applying the principle of the main channel, the islands were allocated, of which 17 islands went to South West Africa (now Namibia), while 16 went to northern Rhodesia (Zambia).

According to him, the attempted survey of 1912 was abandoned due to the different terrain of the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe River.

“This was properly explained on 25 October 1951 by the magistrate of Eastern Caprivi, Major Trollope, to his counterpart, the district commissioner in Bechuanaland Protectorate, Mr McLaren in these words: “(1) the ‘silly season’ for ‘disputed islands’ has commenced: it always does at the commencement of the ploughing season,” Kawana quoted.

This, he said, means the boundary between the two territories, in its westerly approach to the Linyati swamps, is often very difficult to ascertain with absolute exactitude as the main course of the river.  

Other reasons include its tortuous in the extreme, and it also dries up completely for long periods – sometimes for years – making it sometimes almost impossible to view satisfactorily, owing to the swampy and/or ready nature of the terrain.

From as far as 1912, the minister said, every attempted survey done was abandoned until the joint commission survey of 2000 to 2002, adding the exact boundary was never determined.

The joint commission report was submitted to the presidents of the two countries in 2002 at Ngoma, a border crossing area between Namibia and Botswana in Namibia.

“Again, the traditional authorities attended the occasion of the submission. It was a public affair with the presence of the media from both Namibia and Botswana. At the occasion, seven volumes of the report were submitted to the presidents of Namibia and Botswana,” Kawana contended.

Therefore, he clarified, the boundary treaty of 2018 merely recognised the survey work that was done over time by consolidating the work into one document.

In compliance with the constitutional requirements, the National Assembly on 12 June 2018 unanimously agreed to the ratification of the boundary treaty.


2021-05-31  Albertina Nakale

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