Leungo Mokgwathi
R.I.P: Tobokane Galesiame

Man dies from heart attack in clash with govt over land rights

The people of Metsiaela squatter camp in Letlhakane are mourning the death of a 65-year-old man who collapsed and died after the Land Board allocated his plot to someone else.

The Khwedom Council, an NGO that fights for the rights of Basarwa, is currently up in arms with the Ngwato Land Board over the old man’s unprecedented death, saying that had the Land Board not made such a decision, he would still be alive.

The deceased, Tobokane Galesiame, was among a group of Basarwa known as Bakhwe who were relocated from Orapa and Damtshaa mines to Metsiaela to pave way for developments in the mid 1950s to 1960s.

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While land allocation was first done officially in 2008 and later in 2019, only a few hundred plots were given out, leaving many landless, Galesiame included. Letlhakane Sub-Land Board had, however, promised that the remaining people would eventually be allocated land.

Khwedom Council Public Relations Officer, Banyatsi Salutu, informed The Voice that on the 18th of November, Letlhakane Sub-Land Board came with a shocking message that they were giving away the land which was being occupied by the Bakhwe.

“As soon as they reached the old man’s house, he went outside in an attempt to stop them. He shouted at them in defiance and, in that moment, he clasped his chest and collapsed.” The old man was taken to Letlhakane Hospital where he died three weeks later.

The cause of death, according to the death certificate, was Sepsis due to pneumonia and hypertension. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues.

According to experts, sepsis may progress to septic shock, a dramatic drop in blood pressure that can lead to severe organ problems and death.

The mourning family, as well as the people of Metsiaela, have condemned the actions of the Land Board as monstrous and a depiction of how the Botswana government truly feels about Basarwa.

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“We believe that land must be equally distributed among all communities in Botswana and many factors must be considered by the Land Board, including preservation of cultural sites, burial places, spiritual areas, proper human settlement principles and upcoming future generation aspects.”

“We believe that some Land Board officials in Letlhakane practise unethical behaviours such as cultural bias, favouritism, and soliciting activities against Basarwa and other criminal activities such as misplacing land files, transfer-delaying tactics and applying double standards when dealing with our community” added Salutu.

Salutu says following the old man’s death, they have sought out help from a number of organisations, including Office of the President, Ministry of Local Government as well as the American Embassy.

“The American Embassy has already visited us to document the unfortunate circumstances that the people of Metsiaela are forced to live under by the government.”

Following the Land Board’s eviction, hundreds of Bakhwe have decided to leave the settlement to return to their farms. “Over 105 children will be affected since parents in those squatter camps are now forced to take their children out of school to return to the farms,” said a pained Salutu.

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When reached out to, the Ngwato Land Board and Letlhakane Sub-Land Board Public Relations office denied any knowledge of a complaint lodged with them by the Khwedom Council.

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