Four Basarwa men accused of poaching on their ancestral land have escaped up to five years in jail after a Gaborone high court threw out their case last week.
The men were allegedly spotted on a hunting trip by President Ian Khama as his plane flew over the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in April 2012.
The four men Mongwegi Gaoberekwe, Mohame Belesa, Thoama Tsenene and Dipuisano Mongwegi – were intercepted by the police; their spears, bows and arrows, and domestic animals were confiscated.
The men told police they were hunting to feed their families, and did not know it was wrong to hunt eland on their native soil.
In 2006, following violent evictions from their land, the Bushmen’s right to live and hunt in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was recognized by the High Court.
Despite the Court’s order, no hunting licenses have been granted since the ruling.
Basarwa are widely recognized as inherent conservationists and have practiced sustainable hunting in the reserve for centuries.
In January 2014, President Khama imposed a nationwide hunting ban that could destroy the last hunting Bushmen in Southern Africa. The ban exempts private game ranches, where wealthy trophy hunters can pay up to $8,000 to hunt protected species, such as giraffes.
Scores of Basarwa hunters have been arrested and violently intimidated by wildlife officers and police, and the government has now employed a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy against anyone suspected of ‘poaching’.
The overjoyed Basarwa were represented by Arrtorney Monamo Aobakwe of Duma Boko and Company.