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Home / Opinion:  On the Namibia - Botswana border issue 

Opinion:  On the Namibia - Botswana border issue 

2021-08-10  Staff Reporter

Opinion:  On the Namibia - Botswana border issue 

Namibia is bordering with Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. On 9 February 1990, it was clearly stated that all colonial boundaries and demarcations will be respected. Of all the five above mentioned countries, only Botswana does not respect the colonial boundaries between Namibia and Botswana, particularly on the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu river borders.

In 1992, a defenceless nine-year-old boy, who was fishing at Lizauli in a canoe on the Namibian side, was gunned down by highly qualified and trained Botswana soldiers with two bullets hitting him while nine other bullets hit his canoe. 

The Namibian government did nothing. In October 1998, another learner Dias Masuku Sasa was also gunned down by BDF while fishing. Of all the reported 37 Namibians who were shot dead by the same BDF, Botswana is now denying the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy but did nothing and never apologised for the shooting. 

Neither did Namibia do anything to stop the shooting of its citizen over the years.  

During the liberation struggle, scores of Namibians lost their precious lives, let alone the Cassinga massacre. We have not been at war with Botswana. Why then had our innocent people including the four fishermen who were shot dead on 5 November 2020 are being killed? When will this unnatural deaths stop?

Seemingly, Botswana has a hidden agenda on the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwandu river border. Of all the five mentioned countries there has always been ocean borders, river borders, land borders and concrete beacon borders but there has not been any border dispute with the other four countries in exception of Botswana. There has been border re-demarcation between Namibia and Botswana which should have been respected, but Botswana disregarded such, let alone Kasikili island, which the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Botswana.

Around 2000-2002, the two heads of state for Botswana and Namibia agreed at Ngoma border post that the residents living along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwandu rivers of both countries would continue with their normal livelihood such as fishing, collecting river foods etc. This is not the case as Botswana continues to disregard the written agreements.

There are many factors that cause the river to change its course e.g. drought, floods, winds, natural vegetation, such as reeds, kariba weeds (locally known as mucimbami) hippos, soil erosion etc. These natural causes should not and cannot change the main channels of the river whether silted or not, deep or shallow like in the case of Kasikili and other disputed islands.

My opinion is that the Kasikili island issue be revisited because the border was determined by the depth of the river between the two countries and the original colonial demarcated border of 1 July 1890 be revived and accepted, and the treaty of 2018 be abrogated because four traditional authorities in Zambezi region were not properly consulted.

Had it not for the country-wide demonstrations against the shooting of the four Namibian fisherman on the 5th of November 2020 by the BDF, the shooting could still have continued. The joint report by the Botswana and Namibia on whatever transpired on 5 November 2020 has up to now not been made public. The reasons for the delay are not convincing.

In spite of the countrywide demonstrations by Namibians against the BDF harassment and killings, the Namibian President has not deployed any Namibian soldiers along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwandu rivers as requested in the petition addressed to him through the Zambezi regional governor, Lawrence Sampofu. Instead, the President chose to put NDF camps closer to the Zambezi villages where there has been no danger especially from Linyanti to Lianshulu with most affected being Kapani, Singobeka, Maunga, Batubaja, Mbilangwe and Mbambazi.    

Despite several enquiries by the traditional councillors of the mentioned villages, as to the mission of the camps next to villages, they (NDF) remained silent and only informed the indunas of the affected villages that their concerns would be forwarded to the higher authorities in Windhoek. Up to now no feedback has been received.

It is quite amazing to see the president and his government ministers and other dignitaries not protecting the lives of their subjects. Another report of 9 May 2021 by the Informante tells the latest incidence about the arrogance of the BDF towards Namibians and their tourists, despite the freedom to share the natural resources along the disputed borders.

It seems all these years Botswana has secretly been studying the basins and swamps of the above-mentioned rivers on the Namibian side, and has now realised that the Namibian side has the potential of the tourism sites and possible mining explorations such as the diamonds, other minerals, underground oil reserves and other natural resources.  

From 1890 to 1990, (100 years), after the Berlin conference of 1890, and from 1966 when Botswana got its independence (after 34years) to 1990 when Namibia attained its independence, Botswana never complained about the border. 

Immediately after 21 March 1990, Botswana started complaining about borders to be in their favour. Coordinates and beacons of the Berlin conference of 1 July 1890 are still in existence along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu main channels, but the new border treaty of 2018 was still signed by the then heads of Botswana, lieutenant-general Seretse Ian Khama and the sitting President of Namibia Dr Hage Geingob ignoring the existing coordinates and beacons of the main channel. The question now is “what was the purpose of this new border treaty of 2018 which greatly disadvantaged Zambezi region in particular and Namibia in general?” Secondly, why were citizens of Zambezi region not consulted for their input? Thirdly, why didn’t the mentioned presidents including the current president Masisi of Botswana take action to stop the continuous shoot-to-kill policy, which led to the loss of at least 37 Namibians precious lives? 

From the meeting of 14 May 2021, in Zambezi, which was chaired by governor Sampofu and attended by the region’s four traditional authorities and minister of the international relations, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and minister Albert Kawana and the surveyor general, I strongly recommend that there be a new committee to look into the border treaty issue between Botswana and Namibia including only the present surveyor-general. Also, the defence minister of Botswana be warned by Namibia about the continuous harassment of the Namibian people along the Chobe/Linyanti and Kwandu rivers by the BDF. I also recommend that the joint commission report on the death of the four fishermen be released without further delay and that the original border of 1 July 1890 be respected without any negotiations. Land that was taken by Botswana through the 2018 border treaty e.g. Situngu, Sampisi stream etc. be returned to Namibia, particularly to the affected communities.  

2021-08-10  Staff Reporter

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