Scramble for the Okavango Delta ensues
The demand for tourism land in the Okavango Delta has over the years generated much interest in the local media. It is anticipated that the rising tourism investments in the wetlands will bring economic opportunities to impoverished communities. But with the investments come threats of communities being pushed out of their ancestral lands and environmental harm to the wetlands.
Recently 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.
Four Tawana Land Board (TLB) Members; Tebogo Boalotswe, Onkgomoditse Gabokakangwe, Selinah Phorano and Mpho Mothoka have been served with termination letters after being accused of refusing to approve land allocation to the British billionaire. They allegedly sabotaged a process to approve Lone Tree, Karakao Island, Khwai North Flood Plains and Chiefs Island West to the tourism land bank.
The four are appealing the termination of their contracts. Former Land Minister Maele, whom the dealings took place under his administration has since been dropped from his ministerial job by new President, Mokgweetsi Masisi. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has 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. Khama 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.
Khama said the request will be processed after the Tawana Land Board approves the transfer of the sites.
In 2014, all prime tourism concession areas in Botswana including the Okavango Delta were transferred from TLB 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 of an adequate and constant supply of land for tourism activities.
To set up the bank, chunks of tourism sites have been identified, some of which were previously used for hunting safaris in tribal areas and administered by land boards. Khama said Moremi Game Reserve has not been included in the tourism land bank and needed the land board to approve its transfer. He said they are still awaiting the transfer.
The land bank issue is unpopular in Ngamiland. Leburu Molatedi is the Southern Africa regional representative of International Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC.) IPACC is a network of 150 indigenous Organizations in African countries which promote recognition of and respect for indigenous people in Africa. Molatedi has said that indigenous communities of the Okavango Delta who include Basarwa, Hambukushu and Wayeyi are worried they will lose access to their land since the introduction of the land bank.
Molatedi noted that government’s introducing the tourism land bank has changed the operations of Community Based Natural Resources Management Programme. The land bank gives Botswana Tourism Organisation powers to enter in to lease agreements with tour operators in community concessions. In the previous dispensation, communities through their trusts entered in to those agreements directly with the tour operators. Now communities fear they will be denied access to river reeds, fish and other veldt products that they need for their survival and livelihoods.
The delta was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014. However, according to Molatedi the World Heritage Committee (WHC) group which decides on the places to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites is worried about the tourism land bank as it poses a threat to communities’ livelihoods. Molatedi said the WHC which ensures the agreements of world heritage convention are followed has advised Botswana improve its consultations with the delta communities to find a solution to their problems.
Meanwhile minister Khama said his ministry will give a lodge plot in the Okavango Delta to Batawana to start a community trust. However he said they will not give Batawana paramount chief, Tawana Moremi a tourism plot as Moremi had wanted. “He came to us saying he wants to be allocated a plot in Moremi Game Reserve. But we can only help the community not him as an individual.”
Kgosi Moremi has in the past maintained that the Chiefs Island is his personal property. He contended that it was traditionally his forefathers’ hunting ground. Minister Khama said there was documentation to prove that Batawana gave Moremi Game Reserve which they formed as a tribal territory in 1960 to government. However, Keith Diako of the Batawana Advisory Committee has said that the tribe is still contesting the ownership of Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park. “We are happy that the ministry has promised us land but that does not mean we are dropping our case to fight for ownership the two properties.”
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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan
Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme of “Ithuse” meaning “help yourself”
The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.
DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.
DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.