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BDF soldiers clash with Ditshiping residents

“THEY HAVE REDUCED US TO PAUPERS” – RESIDENTS

Residents of Ditshiping settlement in NG 32 inside the Okavango Delta have written a letter of complaint to the North West District Commissioner over a conflict between them and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) soldiers.

According to the letter delivered to the D.C’s office in Maun this week, the residents maintain that they want to live in peace with the soldiers and therefore want the DC to organise a meeting between residents and the BDF to discuss and resolve the impasse.

The letter was written after the BDF failed to show up at a scheduled meeting in Ditshiping last week Wednesday to discuss new movement restrictions imposed by the BDF on the villagers.

Although a communication was made to residents by the area councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo that the soldiers have said they would like to reschedule a meeting for another day, the residents demanded a commitment of the verbal communication through a letter.

“We would be glad if our issue could be attended to as a matter of urgency because our lives are at standstill because of this conflict,” said a community spokesperson.

The residents maintained that they had suffered brutality at the hands of the soldiers for too long and of recent they are not allowed to go into the bush to cut thatch grass and poles to mend their huts as soldiers have threatened to shoot anyone they see in the bush.
“Soldiers say we stay right next to Mombo area, but we do not. Ours is NG32 which we were given by government and allowed to use natural resources contained therein for subsistence,” reads the letter in part.
It also states that, “Ditshiping residents depend on natural resources for subsistence including cutting poles (mapako), grass and reeds to build our huts. We depend on fish for relish and these are no longer accessible as the soldiers have told us we are no longer allowed to set foot outside the village and go to the river to harvest or take part in the mentioned activities.”

Above all, the residents claimed that they used to work in safari camps, but since COVID-19 has devastated the tourism sector they no longer have any source of income.

“This has complicated our lives. We have been reduced to complete paupers and we are all suffering including our young children, “the letter further stated.

Soldiers cracked down on Ditshiping residents after rhino poaching went up drastically in the redzone area, which include Mombo, Ditshiping and surrounding areas.

In Response Colonel Tebo Dikole of the BDF said, “As succinctly stated previously, there is an alarming surge of rhinoceros poaching in Okavango Delta and poachers continue to resort to the adoption of ruthless tactics by targeting members of the BDF. Since the commencement of the year 2020, 16 armed poachers have been killed.”

Dikole explained that in recent shoot outs between poachers and soldiers where poachers were killed, the incidents took place in areas of Mombo in the Chiefs Island, Kurunxaraga and Selina spillway in the general Linyanti area hence the tough measures to curb poaching.

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