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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X

Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.11 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2011


The right to water in Botswana: A review of the Matsipane Mosetlhanyane case



Bonolo Ramadi Dinokopila

Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Lecturer, Department of Law, University of Botswana




The Botswana Court of Appeal has recently pronounced on the right of the Basarwa, resident in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, to water. This case note looks at this decision of the Court of Appeal pertaining to the refusal of the government to allow the Basarwa to recommission, at their own expense, an existing borehole. It examined the arguments that were placed before both the High Court and the Court of Appeal by the parties as well as the decisions of the courts. The note provides insight into the possible implications of the decision on the judicial enforcement of socioeconomic rights in Botswana.



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* LLB (Botswana), LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) (Pretoria);
1 Matsipane Mosetlhanyane & Others v The Attorney-General of Botswana, Court of Appeal, CALB-074-10 (unreported).
2 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 4.
3 The Botswana Gazette 'SI accuses Khama of racism' 15 December 2010 (accessed 24 March 2011); Afrol News 'Botswana outraged over diamond tourism boycott' http://www.afro!.com/articles/36983 (accessed 24 March 2011).
4 Matsipane Mosetlhanyane & Others v The Attorney-General of Botswana High Court decision MAHLB-000393-09 (unreported).
5 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 1.
6 Roy Sesana & Others v The Attorney-General MISCA 52 of 2002, reported as Sesana & Others v The Attorney-General 2002 1 BLR 452 (HC). For the purpose of the present article, reference will be made to the original judgment.
7 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 2.
8 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 3.
9 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) paras 9-10.
10 Sesana & Others (n 6 above) 761.
11 Para 12 of the applicants' written submissions (on file with author).
12 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 30.
13 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 31.
14 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 63.
15 Para 80 of the applicants' written submissions (on file with author).
16 Paras 83-84 of the applicants' written submissions ( on file with author).
17 UN General Assembly Resolution 54/175; General Comment 15 of the UN ESCR Committee; art 24(2) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); art 9 International Law Association Rules on the Equitable and Sustainable Use of Waters, 9th Draft (accessed 31 March 2011); art 14(2)(h) UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); art 1(2) International Covenant on International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
18 V v United Kingdom [1999] 30 EHRR 121 175; Tyrer v United Kingdom [1979-80] 2 EHRR 1 11; McNab & Others v Minister of Home Affairs [2007] NAHC 50; The City of Johannesburg & 2 Others v Lindiwe Mazibuko & 4 Others (489/08) [2009] ZASCA 20; 2009 3 SA 592 (SCA); 2009 8 BCLR 791 (SCA).
19 Cap 34:01.
20 Sec 6(1) of the Act appears in Part II of the Act and provides that '[s]ubject to the provisions of this Act and of any other written law, the owner or occupier of any land may, without a water right - (a) sink or deepen any well or borehole thereon and abstract and use water therefrom for domestic purposes, not exceeding such amount per day as may be prescribed in relation to the area where such well or borehole is situated by the Minister after consultation with any advisory board established in pursuance of section 35 in respect of that area'. Sec 9(1) provides that '[s]ubject to the foregoing provisions, no person shall divert, dam, store, abstract, use or discharge any effluent into public water, or for any such purpose construct any works, except in accordance with a water right granted under this Act'.
21 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 32; paras 22-38 of the applicants' written submissions (on file with author).
22 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 34.
23 As above.
24 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 47.
25 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 53.
26 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 48.
27 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 49.
28 Ikgopoleng Shabane & 25 Others v Kereng Solly Mogami & The Attorney-General 2005 (1) BLR 343 345.
29 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 49.
30 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 77.
31 As above.
32 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) 19.
33 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 92.
34 As above.
35 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 102.
36 Mosetlhanyane (n 4 above) para 104.
37 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above).
38 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 1.
39 As above.
40 As above.
41 Sec 2 provides that 'a "borehole" does not include any borehole constructed in prospecting for minerals'.
42 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 18.
43 BR Dinokopila 'The judicial enforcement of socio-economic rights in Botswana and the case of Basarwa in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)', paper presented at the ANCL-RADC Annual Conference 'The Internationalisation of Constitutional Law' Rabat, Morocco, 20 January 2011 (accessed 21 March 2011).
44 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 21.
45 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 8.
46 As above.
47 Para 27 appellants' heads of argument.
48 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 8.
49 As above.
50 As above.
51 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 16.
52 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 16.
53 Mosetlhanyane (n 1 above) para 19; UN Resolution A/RES/64/292 on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.
54 UNHRC Resolution (A/HRC/15/L.14) on Human Rights and Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation.
55 Eg City of Johannesburg (n 18 above); Residents of Bon Vista Mansions v Southern Metropolitan Local Council 2002 6 BCLR 625 (W); Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v Paraguay; Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar AIR 1991 SC 420; Bandhua Mukti Morcha v Union of India AIR 1984 SC 802.
56 See CM Fombad 'Highest courts departing from precedents: The Botswana Court of Appeal in Kweneng Land Board v Mpofu & Nonong' (2005) 1 University of Botswana Law Journal 128, highlighting that '[a]ppellate decision making has at least two main functions: firstly, to dispose of the case at hand, and secondly to affirm and shape the law for future cases in the course of disposing of the case in hand'.
57 R Miamingi 'Inclusion by exclusion? An assessment of the justiciability of socioeconomic rights under the 2005 interim Constitution of the Sudan' unpublished LLM dissertation, University of Pretoria, 2008 17.
58 Sesana (n 6 above) para H13.
59 As above.
60 Sesana (n 6 above) para H16.
61 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, art 26, 1155 UNTS 331, entered into force 27 January 1980.
62 Vienna Convention (n 61 above) para 27.
63 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted by UN General Assembly, Resolution 60/147, UN Doc A/RES/60/147 (21 March 2005).

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