Limpopo is one of the vital resources to revive the agricultural sector as well as tourism. Small scale irrigation schemes can be promoted along the river bank. The river has the potential for recreational fishing. However all of these are out of bound for residents of Bobonong, Sefhare-Ramokgonami and to some extent Mahalapye East.
Sefhare-Ramokgonami Member of Parliament Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang says the reason for this is because commercial farms extend from inland to the bank of the river. Gobotswang says although the middle of the river is the official boundary between Botswana and South Africa, in reality Botswana shares boundary with commercial farms.
“Consequently patrolling by members of the security forces along the border has been a challenge. Permit has to be sought from commercial farmers who are predominantly white to access Limpopo and conduct patrols. Under the current set up Tuli Block is virtually a state within a state. This cannot be acceptable. It has to change,” Gobotswang said.
He explained that their informants told them that at independence there was a buffer zone that allowed residents from the area to access Limpopo. The buffer zone was used as part of the grazing land and Limpopo was mainly used to water livestock. There were also passages between commercial farms also used to access the river. All these have been closed making Limpopo inaccessible. “Our key informants tell us that Sheldon Game Farm-Kweneng Ranches (Pty) Ltd near Machaneng village was used to close one of the passages to Limpopo River,” he said.
Gobotswang also explained that it has since emerged that the Office of the President (OP) once commissioned a study to investigate the situation with a view to establish a buffer zone along the border to ensure access to Limpopo River for economic activities and ease of patrols by members of the security forces. The report was presented with some recommendations. “However the recommendations never saw the light of day. Apparently it was felt that if the recommendations were implemented some big people associated with the government would have been affected. The report is said to be gathering dust in the shelves at OP as government developed cold feet. It is for this reason that I will be asking the questions below during the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) sitting in November 2021,” Gobotswang said.
He added that they have started consultations with the affected farmers through Tuli Block Farmers Association. “In particular, I led a delegation to meet JP Roos who is the chairperson of the association. My believe is that the fears of the commercial farmers need to be taken into account. One of their fears is that if what we are advocating for comes to pass they will lose their game to poachers. Our argument was that poaching and stock theft are not uncommon in our area and should not be used as a reason to exclude indigenous people access to a resource as critical as Limpopo River. JP Roos promised to consult his association and solicit their views.”
Apparently, Dikgosi in the area support the initiative. In particular the former Sefhare Sub Tribal Authority and former representative of Tswapong Region at Ntlo Ya Dikgosi Kgosi Oteng Suping, Kgosi Jimmy Moremi of Ngwapa and Kgosi Ditodi Namane Dovedale in the recent past voiced their views advocating for access to Limpopo. Shine Namane of Lentswe La Batswapong is a strong advocate for unfettered access to Limpopo River.
Dr Gobotswang said when Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Kefentse Mzwinila talks about conducting a Tuli Block farm audit one wonders why government wants to duplicate an investigation that was previously conducted by the OP. He is of the opinion that government must act on the recommendation of the OP report. “We need action like yesterday. Batswana have been deprived of a vital resource for a very long time. For the people of Bobirwa and Tswapong economic inclusion will mean nothing if we are excluded from utilizing Limpopo River. Apartheid tendencies must not be tolerated in our country.”
Gobotswang asked the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration if there has ever been any investigation, study or commission of any sort undertaken by the Government of Botswana around the issue of creating corridors or buffer zones along international boundaries to allow access to the rivers such as Limpopo and facilitate patrols by members of the security forces; the Minister should specifically state, (i)Key recommendations of such an investigation, study or commission if such was ever undertaken, (ii) Which recommendations were accepted and those that were rejected; (iii) How members of the security forces conduct patrols in areas where there are no corridors or buffer zones; (iv) If in the spirit of economic inclusion he will consider creating corridors or buffer zones to ensure access to shared resources such as Limpopo River.