CKGR burial saga reaches AU court

Portia Mlilo
FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: Smith Moeti with Lesiame Pitseng

Pitseng family defy court order to bury their father in New Xade

Govt to pay more than P800 000 mortuary bill

The Pitseng family has turned to the African Union Court after the Botswana Court of Appeal upheld a high court decision preventing them from burying their late father on their ancestral land.

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Gaoberekwe Pitseng, a Mosarwa man originally from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), passed away on Christmas Eve in 2021. For the past 22 months, his body has remained in a mortuary, as his children refuse to collect it because they were denied the right to bury him in their chosen place, the CKGR.

Initially, the Gantsi District Council took the Pitseng family to the High Court to seek an order to bury the deceased in New Xade, contrary to the family’s wishes for a CKGR burial. The council argued that the late Pitseng had been enrolled under its social welfare program, making him a resident of New Xade and, consequently, the appropriate burial location.

In 2014, Gaoberekwe had relocated to New Xade due to a lengthy illness and the need for healthcare facilities. The Gantsi council had allocated him a plot and built him a house at the time.

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Following their loss in court in January, the family refused to collect Gaoberekwe Pitseng’s body, insisting that he be laid to rest in his ancestral land, alongside his forefathers. In response to a Court of Appeal judgment upholding the High Court’s decision, the family contacted the Attorney General. The government is now expected to pay more than P800,000 to the mortuary.

Smith Moeti, the family’s spokesperson, reported that two lawyers in South Africa have committed to representing them at the African Union court. The past two years have been exceptionally challenging for the family, and they remain unable to find closure. The body has been stored at Joyce’s Funeral Parlour in Gantsi, and its condition is deteriorating in terms of appearance and colour.

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“The corpse is in a black plastic bag because they lied to us saying he had COVID-19 hence the rush to bury him at New Xade instead of CKGR. We demanded for the test results, and we never received them. As per Judge Gaarekwe’s judgement, Basarwa are discriminated against and not allowed to have multiple residences or choose where to bury their deceased parents and relatives, a right enjoyed by other communities in Botswana. The government can do whatever it wants with his body, but we will not rest until justice is served. They are taking us for granted as Basarwa. There are organizations and other Batswana who are very supportive and willing to sponsor the legal costs,” said Moeti.

The Pitseng family remains determined to pursue justice, refusing to accept what they see as unfair treatment of Basarwa. According to Moeti, they have received support from various organizations and other Batswana willing to sponsor the legal costs. The battle continues to ensure that their father can find his final resting place in line with their ancestral traditions.

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