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Makgato contradicts Ministry on CKGR concessions

A few days after she was attacked for insulting the founding father of her party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the late Seretse Khama, during a political rally Chadibe, Minister of Transport and Communications Dorcas Makgato, took a swipe at former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, attacking him of favoring his foreign nationals and awarding them tenders within the CKGR.

Former President Ian Khama is a close friend of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, award- winning filmmakers from Botswana. Their mission is the conservation and understanding of the large predators and key African wildlife species that determine the course of all conservation in Africa. The couple allegedly leased two concessions in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and the current administration is reportedly considering chasing them out following fallout during the hunting ban saga sometime this year.

According to some local reports multiple sources from government enclave recently disclosed that the wildlife ministry was asked by Office of the President to present the status report on Joubert’s operations in Botswana. Sources say the report was to be used to look for possibilities of kicking him out of the tourism business because of his strong criticism of government with regards to the handling of the hunting.  

In June this year local newspaper Mmegi’s investigations on Joubert operations have uncovered that they operate from two concessions, namely NG16 and NG23. NG16 is held by the Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd and has four tourist camps being Selinda, Zarafa, Motswiri and Explorer. The current lease is from 2010 and will expire at the end of 2025.

NG23 concession is held by the Okavango Community Trust (OCT), which represents five villages in the Okavango Pan-handle and was sublet to Banoxi (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by Dereck’s Duba Holdings and other partners. The concession has two camps Duba Plains and Duba Explorations Camp. Interestingly, the head lease for this concession expired in 2014. OCT had signed a sub- lease that had a duration exceeding that of the head lease and this led to the operator seeking a legal re-dress for breach of contract.

In her remarks Makgato said former President Ian Khama had interests in the CKGR concessions thus gave them to his ‘white’ friends during his tenure as President. However a response from the parent Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism through Botswana Tourism organization refuted the Minister’s remarks while responding to a questionnaire from WeekendPost.

In their response the ministry says Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) has always played a facilitatory role for land authorities to award tourism concessions. They said BTO does not award any concessions but has facilitated processes leading to recommendations for award to the relevant land authority.

“Between April 2008 and April 2018, BTO facilitated the award of thirty nine (39) tourism concessions around the Okavango Delta. The allocation of tourism concessions in the CKGR was facilitated by The Department of Wildlife and National Parks”. This is the period when former President Khama was in office.

Of these thirty nine (39) concessions awarded during this time period; thirteen (13) were allocated to 100% citizen owned companies, seven (7) were allocated to non- citizen owned companies, ten (10) were allocated to companies listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, while nine (9) were allocated to companies with varying combinations of citizen and non- citizen shareholding. The ministry also highlighted that concessions are awarded through open tender processes facilitated by BTO or any other method prescribed by the land authority.

In his response, former President Khama said Dorcas Makgato is a liar and accused her of trying to discredit him. Khama said anything to do with concessions is facilitated by BTO and the tender is put out there. “At the moment I don’t know how many Batswana or foreign nationals benefited because it was not in my jurisdiction”, said Khama.

Last year a saga involving tourism land allocation in the Okavango Delta to the British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson for tourism development, captured the attention of Batswana. The issue generated equally divided interest from the nation with many opining that government must jump at the once in a life time opportunity to have Sir Branson invest in the Okavango Delta. But to the Okavango Delta communities, the rich investors like Branson are often seen as a problem and not an opportunity.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, at the time Tshekedi Khama, who is the young brother to Ian Khama, confirmed that Sir Branson has applied for a tourism concession in the Okavango Delta. Khama revealed that Sir Branson’s application was still under consideration pending the advertisement of four lodge sites which were recently demarcated by Botswana Tourism Organisation. He said Branson applied through the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre for land in the Okavango Delta. The mandate of BITC is to drive Botswana’s economic growth through investment promotion and attraction; export promotion and development; and management of the national brand.

In 2014, all prime tourism concession areas in Botswana including the Okavango Delta were transferred from Tawana Land Board to the Ministry of Lands through a Ministerial Directive to create what has come to be known as the Tourism Land Bank. The Land Bank was set up by government to facilitate the development of the tourism sector through maintaining an adequate and constant supply of land for tourism activities.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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