Let’s fight sand-mining

SHARE   |   Sunday, 20 July 2014   |   By Banks Ndebele

The illicit sand mining in the Kweneng District, especially Mogoditshane-Thamaga Sub-District is an issue of great concern to residents of this dub-district, especially small farmers who depend on the rivers of Metsimotlhabe and Kolobeng to water their livestock. But the way government seems to care less about this environmental devastation, beats common sense. The police though they are sentient about this illegal act, they are not doing much about it. When driving along Gaborone -Kanye road at night, you will come across tipper cars some driving towards Gaborone, loaded with sand, and perceptibly illegally mined at night from the above mentioned rivers. Some of the trucks will be going to load.

 On two instances I have brought this to the attention of police officers who were on duty along that road at night after one of the trucks nearly brought about an accident because its lights were not working. I tried to phone the police, but while I was still calling, a police traffic vehicle came and I reported what happened. They managed to stop the truck. To my astonishment the issue of the truck almost causing an accident was not taken seriously. The police officers said they will escort the truck, to where, I did not know. The truck driver looked at ease; he didn't look like someone apprehensive that he had broken the law. He was not asked where he got the sand at around 10pm. I had my suspicions, but I decided to keep them to myself. My suspicion was that these officers who appeared to be so friendly to a traffic law offender and someone who is transporting sand at 10pm against a ban on sand mining in the Kweneng district before 6am and after 6pm.

On the second occasion, I was driving down the same road when I saw a number of tipper trucks, some heading towards Gaborone loaded with sand and others going to collect. I stopped a police vehicle and asked them to stop the trucks as they were breaking the law. The police officer simply said, "O batla go mpolaisa maZimbabwe". I was lost for words. I asked myself, does this imply that these illegal sand miners are doing this with impunity because they know no one can do a thing to them as the police officer seems to suggest? Are they above the law so much that they can do as they desire, degrading the environment to extent that farmers who have been depending on the support of the rivers are now left to go through hardship as they can no longer water their animals?

Most of these trucks are also not road worthy. They are driven at night without park lights and many of them with one eye working. They sometimes hold the sand without cover up and the sand particles falling from them smash car windows of other motorists. Their drivers are discourteous and bullies. They terrorise people who want to stop them from their malevolent acts to an extent of critically injuring some of them.

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My proposition is that the office of the District commissioner should coordinate activities geared towards controlling this scourge. The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Special Support Group (SSG) may possibly be brought in to make the rounds along the rivers at night in the company of a police officer, armed with arms of war if these law breakers are so much feared. We can't allow such things to take root in society where other people remain at the benevolence of just a few ruffians who have no regards of the ramifications of their actions on other people. Ga se kwa ga mmapereko mo lefatsheng le.

Another suggestion is that those who engage in commercial sand mining should use other substitutes such as quarry dust and leave the rivers to recuperate. Mahalapye River which was also at some point almost dead, but now has come back to life is a case in point that when restrictions are austerely obligated, a river can rehabilitate.

Government should enact a law that empowers police to take possession of the trucks that are used to commit these evil and keep them until the case against the offender is over, because the current charges are not inhibitive. It should be done just like with those caught in wildlife offences.