The plight of Basarwa in Letlhakane

09th July 2018
mosarwa of Letlhakane Source:The Midweek Sun


By Yvonne Mooka -

For someone who is in her 80s, granny Pitana Toboe does not have a decent house to sleep in. She stays with three of her children and 12 of her grandchildren in a dilapidated tent that has no roof.

Granny Toboe is arthritic, which makes her want to give up on life. Struggling to speak, this reporter was assisted by Toboe’s neighbour Gosalamang Dinotshe who reveals that the granny has been staying in Maphanephane ward for over 20 years. “No one helps in taking her for medical check ups. She also stays with her 26 year old granddaughter who is also ill and is disabled. She has been using this tent since 2012.

When it’s raining, they come to our place,” she says.
Even though Toboe is enrolled in government’s monthly food ration programme, no one assists her to collect the food. They have missed out on the former President Ian Khama’s free blankets as ‘he never came near us but only went to donate at Malatswae, Khwee and neighbouring cattle posts.’

Toboe is one of the many Basarwa staying in Maphanephane ward, Letlhakane. They say they are treated like second class citizens by residents of the village. In an interview, they spoke of how politicians only recognise their existence during elections. Kemoneemang Moalosi, 31, says that even though their parents raised them in the ‘bushes’ where they were mostly headmen and labourers in the fields, government has forced them to leave their place of comfort to a place of suffering.

“Government took us from the bushes saying we should take our children to school and come near better facilities, but it has been nothing but misery.” She adds that they do not have water and that contrary to the promise that they were going to be allocated plots, they have been left to be squatters for years and years.

“My diabetic mother stays at the cattle post and I had to leave her to come to Letlhakane for my two children to go to school. Also with Ipelegeng programme, I wouldn’t call it employment because the programme uses a rotational system. When we make and sell traditional brews, the police come and throw it away and threaten to arrest us. We relieve ourselves inside the bush. It’s as if we are not human beings in our own country,” she says.

Basarwa lament that politicians exploit them. “During election season, candidates befriend us and come here with their expensive cars to fetch us to rallies and polling stations. They go all out to ensure that those without Identity Cards (Omang) acquire them fast. Immediately after they have won, they dump us and won’t even invite us to their victory parties,” says Moalosi.

Dinotshe, Toboe’s neighbour, was not happy that even when there are Kgotla meetings in Letlhakane, Basarwa are not included. “They go around mentioning that Bakhurutshe will be having a meeting, which is tribalistic,” she says. She adds that Basarwa children are mistreated by other children in schools, hence they end up quitting school. Keletotetse Toboe says that she will continue being a squatter until her children finish school.

Official response
Area councilor Arone Baitsimang said that some of the rival politicians in Boteti were using Basarwa to de-campaign the ruling MP Sethomo Leatisitswe. “Some of Basarwa in this area were given plots but decided to sell them and become squatters. We give the senior citizens monthly food ration. We have enrolled their children in schools through Remote Area Development Programme,” he said.

Basarwa children, he added, refuse to be disciplined by teachers at schools. “When they are disciplined, they leave school. Parents encourage them to rebel against teachers and they don’t take education seriously. We had erected about five standpipes in their area but they vandalised them. Only two are now working,” he said.

For his part, area MP Leatisitswe said that some of Basarwa in the area refuse to apply for plots, and that some do not have ID cards. “We’ve been in talks with the Land Board to assist them. Allocation of plots in this area is very slow because Letlhakane is a growing town. Also, a lot of Basarwa practise cohabitation and this makes it difficult to choose whom to give the plot. Their population is also growing,” he said.

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