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.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.