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Tshekedi fights to access P50 billion Levy

The Tourism Development Levy is destined to be the cash cow of the Ministry Of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism. After years of complaining about a small budget compared to other Ministries and a faltering levies such as the plastic levy, Mr Tshekedi Khama is determined to harvest from the newly introduced Tourism Development Levy.

But there is a small glitch, his attempt to squeeze through a Bill that would allow his Ministry to use funds from the Tourism Development Levy through a certificate of urgency hit a snag this week in Parliament as Members of Parliament from across the political divide prayed for time and understanding. The Levy is not without its fair share of controversy because in some quarters it has been branded ‘a quick money spinning’ scheme with the potential to scare away tourists.

Khama had wanted to move in terms of Standing Order 72.3 that the Bill and its stages be proceeded with, as a matter of urgency. He said the reason for his approach is that his Ministry has been afforded the opportunity to introduce a Tourism Development Levy, but up until now, they have not been able to use any funding other than which they had got from tourism other than for the Training Levy.

The Minister said it has become quite apparent in recent times that some of the ministry’s facilities have seen their conditions degrading, “but we have also wanted to develop some of our monuments and our heritage sites. We believe that as we have commitments coming towards the end of the year, we would therefore like that we be allowed to present this and proceed forthwith so that we can at least begin for now to start collecting the funding, and then we can start to develop each tourism site for local tourism as well as international tourism to better facilitate for those visitors that we have in the country.”

Minister Khama has in the past decried his Ministry’s inadequate budget and at some point opposed a supplementary budget from the Directorate on Intelligence Security (DISS) saying the money could be going to more deserving projects at his Ministry. The Tourism Development Levy could be the answer hence Khama and his troops want to speedily access it after it came into effect in June this year.


Khama’s Ministry introduced a $30 (about P330) tax on all tourists entering the country in an effort to raise money to support conservation in the safari hotspot. The Tourism Development Levy was on the nib of being introduced last year but stalled after opposition from the Hospitality and Tourism Association (HATAB). But as usual, Khama and his team got their way. The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) is of the view that the fee will be owed by any visitor to Botswana’s airports and border posts from June 1, payable at the point of entry. Residents of countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which counts 15 members, will be exempt from the charge.

"The levy is purposed to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base, resultantly improving the lives of the people of Botswana,” the BTO has said. “The objective of the levy is to raise funds for conservation and national tourism development in order to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base.”  HATAB had complained last year that it nor other stakeholders had been consulted on the potential tax. Botswana, estimated to welcome some 1.6million visitors a year, stands to make around £34.1million a year from the tax, taking into account the 190,000 SADC visitors.

Gaborone South Member of parliament, Kagiso Molatlhegi was quick to reject Khama’s request, “I do not agree with the certificate of urgency my main reason being that we have never met before to discuss and correct where there should be corrections in this Bill. Still on that the Honourable Minister has never met us to explain to us the impacts that this levy will have on our tourism? My request is just for this Bill to be taken to General Assembly where the Minister would be able to explain its benefits and how we should be able help him sell it to the nation,” he said.

Pius Mokgware, Member of Parliament for Gabane-Mankgodi also had his reasons as to why the Minister’s plea should be rejected. He said as members of the Statutory Bodies committee “they have met with the Minister’s committee before and there were lots of pending issues which need to be addressed. We were not given the opportunity to go through this Bill, so it cannot just be tabled before this House as matter of urgency. Furthermore the Minister has never explained this Bill outside this House, my suggestion is just for him to take this Bill back to the general assembly where we would be able to discuss it and agree with him after his explanation.”

Francistown South legislator, Wynter Mmolotsi also denied the minister’s request. He said he is a Member of the Wildlife, Environment and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament. “This is where I was expecting to have come across a Bill like this, but it is unfortunate that the Minister or even his staff never bothered to come and consult us on a Bill that is likely to have very serious implications on the lives and businesses of our people,” he said. Mmolotsi told the Minister knows that in his ministry, there is yet another fund which was established many years ago called the Plastic Ley Fund, but even up to now businesses collect that particular fund, but the Government is not making any effort to recoup that money in anyway.

“That is not the only levy in that ministry, there are other levies that are there which are not understood, some of which have caused havoc within the ministry. We cannot allow yet another levy to be imposed before we are thoroughly consulted. That is why I am in agreement with those who are saying, “let us go to the General Assembly and discuss this matter.””

For his part, Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse made an observation: “I have been looking at the Bill before us here, I do not think it is introducing any new levy, but what it seeks to do, I think is to expand the usage of the levy as is currently provided for. I think it is appropriate that the Minister goes to the General Assembly so that we discuss the matter further, so that he can unpack it for us, probably even bring his technocrats to also expand and help us understand.”  Like other legislators Keorapetse observed that he was not consulted and those who advise them on Bills of this nature must also be consulted.

“I find it very difficult for me to support the certificate of urgency. I must say that I do not think this is a bad Bill, but we need to discuss it more,” he said. Botswana is popular with European tourists who come here seeking to spot the Big Five on safari, as well as for visits to the Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Botswana also boasts as one of the best safaris in Africa.

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