GP Weekly Writer
Farmers who were asked by Debswana Diamond Company to make way for the extension of Orapa Game Park, a Debswana diversification initiative into tourism formed 36 years ago, want their land back and remains to have an unresolved land war against the mining giant.
A project started in 2016 called ‘Orapa Today Boteti Tomorrow’ (OTBT) which involves the construction of a diamond museum which is located in the industrial area of Orapa and a Game Park led to the area expanding from 12,210 hectares to 48,964 hectares at a tune of P32 million.
But this is not the whole story. The said expansion was for some farmers to vacate their boreholes and farms and get compensation from the mining giant. However, since two years when the project was underway, farmers have been complaining that they were given a raw deal by Debswana.
Of all the complaints GP Weekly understands there is a situation where ten cattle farmers are crammed in one ranch. For borehole owners who are regarded as not having livelihood in the area want money and another boreholes. Bolokang Tlhale, a borehole owner, explained to this publication that there was land valuation which shows that he is entitled to money and a ranch.
Investigation shows that Debswana did not seem to deny him the compensation since it is the one which did valuation report which seen by this publication. Tlhale was promised P180 000 and a borehole certificate after he gave his Water Rights to Debswana. However, in a letter written by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi to Tlhale, there will never be further compensation, but only the P180 000.
“Considerable effort was made by government through Ngwato Land Board, to identify alternative water points to resolve the matter.However, following an extensive search, these rights werenot available as the Land Board did not have any land available for you to exercise your rights to drill. The fair valuation of the compensation to Group B farmers (a group of farmers without livelihood in the Orapa Park area) was determined by Ngwato Land Board and was dully paid, therefore issue of fairness in compensation does not arise. Given that the full replacement value has been issued and accepted, this letter serves to inform you of the closure of this grievance,” said Moagi.
This disgruntlement of farmers against Debswana has dragged for five years. This also prompted a question from the area MP in Parliament in 2018 who asked; whether the balance is suffiecient to satisfy the demands of the affected farmer; when the demands of the affected farmers will be met; and whether Debswana is satisfied with the team in charge of the budget.
The then minister of mines Eric Molale told Parliament that P5.5 million has been used as compensation for all affected farmers. “The grievances from farmers are being processed and a response will be provided in due course. Mister Speaker, Debswana has a dedicated team of personnel on the resettlement issue and management is satisfied with their performance and accountability,” said Molale.
While acknowledging that there remains an unresolved land issue with the Boteti farmers Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager Agatha Sejoe explained in an interview with GP Weekly that the farmers were compensated in line with the assets and livelihoods they possessed prior to relocation.
“The Group B farmers had water rights, which were not being exploited further as they were either dry or salty. As such they were compensated for any improvements or assets remaining at the site. Some of them have not accepted the compensation as they want to be treated the same as those farmers in a different classification who were actively making a living in the area,” said Sejoe.
Sejoe also said a dispute has arisen which the company has unfortunately been unable to resolve. The Debswana spokesperson added that this is due to the involvement of the land boards as the lessors and legal owners of the land. She said the matter has now been escalated to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security to assist with a resolution.