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Tourism wars: Ngamiland, Boteti furore ensnares BDP

Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism; Tshekedi Khama

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is in danger of losing significant support in Ngamiland and Boteti regions as land ownership wars take a bad turn, with accusation levelled against government for wanting to annex land for private purposes.

Tension continues to sear in Ngamiland and Boteti, with the two communities having launched different legal suits against government’s decision to seize sizeable amount of land for tourism purposes.

While government is still smarting from an acrimonious relationship with Bakgatla over their chief, Kgosi Kgafela Kgafela II, the ruling party could be facing another hostile eruption in Ngamiland and Boteti, two of Botswana’s tourism rich areas.

BDP has already lost a grip, in one constituency in Maun (Maun West), which was defended by Kgosi Tawana Moremi II of the Umbrella for Democracy (UDC) in the past general elections. BDP initially lost the constituency when Kgosi Tawana II defected to BDP splinter Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which is now a group member of UDC.  

BDP managed to retain one seat, albeit with the help of split votes from Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and UDC. The brewing wars, helped by the cooperation of BCP and UDC could prove trouble for the ruling party.  

Kgosi Tawana II who is a member of the Tourism Parliamentary Committee have said the land dispossession carried on the people of Ngamiland has created poverty in the region, with residents being turned into spectators in the tourism industry. Tourism is the second largest contributor of Botswana’s GDP.

Tourism Parliamentary Committee has just concluded its annual duties, with Ngamiland region having been under the spotlight. Kgosi Tawana II could not comment on the findings of the committee for fear of compromising its integrity but stated that the report will be available very soon.    

Batawana are preparing to file a notice with attorney general to launch the legal suit against government in a highly anticipated battle for the ownership on Moremi Game Reserve.

In Khumaga, a settlement in Boteti, even the Khama magic could not win the day as residents remain resolute that the annexation of land, through the erection of a fence will leave them in a state of despair, with little access to part of their land.

President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama, who is Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, had frequented the village of Khumaga with a view of convincing the residents to relent, but to no avail.

Their last visits were in April this year and they failed to persuade the residents to give in. However government has forged ahead with plans to erect the fence, with Member of Parliament for the area, Slumber Tsogwane stating, “Consultation is not an agreement, but government has a right to take land for national interest.”

The Ngwande Trust, which is owned by the Khumaga community, has always believed that the decision to erect a new fence is a plan by the Tourism ministry to protect the interest of one of the leading tourism companies, Chobe Holdings which has numerous interests in tourism in Botswana, including in Boteti around Khumaga village.

Chobe Holding is also linked to the Khamas, who are believed to have interests in the company. Khama’s nephew, Dale Ter Haar serves as one of the directors of the company.

Two years ago Chobe Holdings challenged the ownership of Gwaraga land, a wildlife rich area owned by the Ngwande Trust.  Chobe Holdings contended that Ngwande Trust’s acquisition of the land will conflict with its operations and argued that it was never consulted when the Land Board handed the land to the Trust.

Khumaga village, which has gravely been affected by the decision, is an opposition ward, but at constituency level, the BDP defended the seat in the last general elections, thanks again to opposition split votes between UDC and BCP.

North West District Council Chairperson and former BDP parliamentary candidate for Maun West, Reaoboka Mbulawa has however dismissed the ongoing efforts by Batawana tribal leader Kgosi Tawana Moremi II to take the matter to court.

Mbulawa said doing so serves only as division and detriment to the country’s previous achievements.

“There is no land saga. This is just a perspective some individuals have based on personal agenda that finds the tribe involved. When we took independence we agreed as Batswana to share resources and use what the country produces collectively,” he said.

“We were all educated, and health as well as roads and communications infrastructure were achieved through diamonds from Orapa as well as Jwaneng mines. We cannot allow ourselves to be derailed by individuals who seek personal pieces of land and forget where we come from.”

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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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