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Mokaila rolls back Khama era tourism policies

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila has revealed that his ministry has cancelled the Tourism Land Bank.

Mokaila made the revelation on Thursday in Kasane when officiating during the Hotel and Tourism Association of Botswana. The tourism land bank is one of Khama era policies. In 2014, all prime tourism concession were transferred from Land Board across the country to Ministry of Lands through a ministerial directive to create what came to be known as the tourism land bank.

“A number of concession areas in Okavango Delta and Chobe were through a Government directive transferred from land boards to the Ministry of Lands and Botswana Tourism Organization without consultation with the communities and other stakeholders. Another Khama policy, the hunting ban which was also viewed as another ploy by Khama administration to create more land for his favored photographic sector may also be scrapped off, Mokaila has also revealed.

In 2014 a moratorium on trophy hunting was passed citing wildlife declines in Botswana. As per the terms of that ban, all the tourism concessions where hunting used to happen were changed in to photographic tourism to be developed in to lodges replacing the hunting safaris.  This former hunting concessions were incorporated in to the tourism land bank amid suspicions that the move was just a ploy to grab land from the hunting Safari operators and allocate it to the photographic sector.

Addressing HATAB which has never hidden its disdain for the land bank, Mokaila said his ministry is ‘not a land authority and will never be a land authority’ and has therefore decided to return the tourism lands back to the ministry of lands. Meanwhile Mokaila further suggested that the centralization of the Community Based Natural Resources Programme under Khama’s administration could be responsible for the increase in poaching in Botswana.

He opined that when communities are not getting involved in conservation, there is a propensity of them becoming engaged in poaching or colluding with the poaching syndicates. Under Khama administration community anger grew as the communities lost some of the powers they historically enjoyed since the introduction of CBNRM in 1989. Mokaila has revealed that he has since moved to restore the community faith on resources conservation.

As part of the reversal of the tourism land bank, leases for tourism concessions will be signed between the communities and tour operators. The tour operators will also directly pay lees fees to the communities unlike under the land bank arrangement where leases and payments were done between government and tour operators.

Mokaila charged that the tourism sector has grown but asked a rhetorical question for whom the growth has growth has benefited over the years. He seemed to be suggesting that the tourism growth only benefits foreign owned tourism companies while the locals wallows in poverty despite living in natural resources rich areas.

He indicated that indicators show that the tourism industry is doing well; with 4.7% contribution to GDP, 19 000 people employed, annual growth of about 2.7% and 1.9 million arrivals every year as per the 2016 statistics. To increase citizens’ participation and generally multiply benefits, Mokaila said that the Tourism Policies will be reviewed and fine turned to promote citizens active participation. Some of the changes include the development of the CBNRM Act and development of the tourism master plan and development strategy.

Another accusation which has been thrown to the Khama administration has been his favoritism for the wildlife based tourism where he has interests over other tourism sectors such as heritage and cultural tourism which could benefit Batswana in general. HATAB outgoing chairman, Dr Thapelo Matsheka ha challenged government to diversify Botswana’s tourism product from wildlife. He stated that places like Lobatse and others across Botswana have abundant heritage tourism that’s needs to be tapped on.

Matsheka also cautioned against monopoly in the wildlife based tourism sector explaining that the incidence where just a few companies control the tourism market in Botswana is not good for the growth of the sector. Dr Matsheka further reiterated that tourism growth has to be balanced with economic upliftment of the resident communities. He stated that places like Maun have potential that needs to be developed in line with empowering Batswana in the tourism sector. “Maun is a destination not a gateway to the Okavango Delta ‘he said.

Meanwhile HATAB turned 35 years of existence this year and the association has made a vow to continue advocating for better conditions in the tourism sector for its members. HATAB Chief Executive Officer Lily Rakorong appointment of substantive CEO at Botswana Tourism Organization, Myra Sekgororoane, the suspension of the tourism development levy, the lifting of development moratorium in Kasane Development and resuscitation of Kasane- Kazungula plan.

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Botswana economic recovery depends on successful vaccine rollout – BoB

5th May 2021

Bank of Botswana (BoB) has indicated that the rebounding of domestic economy will depended on successful vaccine roll-out which could help business activity to return to its post pandemic days.

Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021.

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Inside the UB-BDF fighter Jet tragedy report

5th May 2021

Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.

Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”

Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”

The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.

“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.

Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.

Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.

Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.

Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”

In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”

Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.

“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.

Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.

Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.

He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”

Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.

“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.

One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.

A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.

Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.

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Uphill battle in Khama’s quest to charge Hubona

5th May 2021

A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.” 

Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.

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