EVEN in its neutered state, the SADC Tribunal might well be an ideal forum for the five southern African countries connected by the Chobe and Zambezi rivers to find common ground on the cross-border movements of their citizens.
In 1992, the presidents for Botswana and Namibia agreed to not disrupt the livelihoods of people in that area despite the complexity brought about by colonial borders as well as the dispute over the Kasikili/Sedudu island.
In terms of that agreement, which the two countries seem to have had endorsed by the International Court of Justice when deciding on ownership of the island, it was agreed to allow free movement, socio-economic activities and equal treatment of people from either country.
The unilateral actions of the Botswana Defence Force, through an unwritten shoot-to-kill policy point to the need to revisit cross-border management not only by Namibia and Botswana, but also Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe – all connected by the two rivers.
The recent controversial killings of Namibian fishermen have understandably put Botswana on the defensive, leading it to invoke 'sovereignty', despite knowing that the reality on the ground is that ordinary citizens' livelihoods will not stop abruptly.
Any concerted effort at revisiting rules around the cross-border movements will only prolong tensions on a state-to-state level.
Just as Botswana and Namibia dealt with the ownership of the Kasikili-Sedudu island by going to the International Court of Justice, it is about time the five countries that are partner to the 'tourism without borders' territory take up the matter for arbitration at an interstate multinational organisation level.
Enter the SADC Tribunal.
Having destroyed the usefulness of the SADC Tribunal when it comes to the defence of the human rights of common citizens, politicians might well be able to put the neutered institution to good use in making common policies that help resolve cross-border disputes as have recently erupted following the killings of three brothers and a cousin two weeks ago.
Botswana and Namibia should not waste this golden opportunity tragically created by the killing of brothers Tommy Nchindo, Martin Nchindo, Wamunyima Nchindo and cousin Sinvula Munyeme to draw up conditions for lasting peace and security between neighbouring states and for the good of the citizens.
Broken as it is, put the SADC Tribunal to good use.