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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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Gov’t urged to stimulate economies until 2021

29th September 2020
Gov’t-urged-to-stimulate-economies-until-2021-Women-are-amongst-the-most-vulnerable-and-hard-hit-groups,-including-migrants,-young-people-and-informal-workers

The latest edition of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Monitor shows the continuing and devastating impacts of the pandemic on jobs and labour income since early 2020, and the massive disruptions in the labour market that will persist into the fourth quarter of this year.

ILO analysts argue that policymakers will need to maintain support to employment and incomes over the coming months and well into 2021, and to address key challenges.

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Debswana seeks to revive Palapye Glass Plant

29th September 2020
Debswana

Botswana’s flagship mining company, Debswana is currently engaging various stakeholders with a view to put the currently abandoned Palapye Glass project plant into good use. 

The glass manufacturing plant was left as a white elephant, midway into construction, following the liquidation of its holding company Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana.

Last week, when responding to a question from Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East Kgoberego Nkawana,  on the status of Palapye Glass Project, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry Molebatsi Molebatsi told Parliament that Debswana is one of the companies interested in utilizing the project facility to establish a glass manufacturing factory.

Responding to a questionnaire from Weekendpost regarding the matter on Thursday, Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager Agatha Sejoe said, Debswana is currently assisting Somarelang Tikologo, an environmental watch NGO to develop a business case to set up a glass manufacturing plant in Botswana.

Debswana has in the past funded Somarelang Tikologo to run a glass crushing business, the two organizations are now contemplating ways of expanding the business from just crushing glasses to completing the whole recycling process by setting up  the re-manufacturing component locally.

Currently the crushed glass produced by Somarelang Tikologo is exported  in its entirety to  glass manufacturing plants in South Africa.

“Debswana believes that rather than to continue to export crushed glass to South Africa, there is an opportunity to establish a glass crushing and manufacturing plant in Botswana and create jobs and secondary businesses in Botswana” Sejoe said .

She explained that Debswana, in partnership with Somarelang Tikologo and Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), have made a preliminary enquiry on the availability of the glass plant from Botswana Development Corporation.

 

“Discussions are still at conceptual stage and currently ongoing with all the relevant stakeholders. Based on the outcome of the feasibility study, Debswana and Somarelang Tikologo will only then establish the appropriate way forward on the matter,” added Sejoe.

Quizzed on Debswana‘s future investment plans, the company’s Lead media liaison  revealed that the mining giant continues to play a major role in various partnerships within communities in Botswana as part of its Social Performance Framework and in accordance with the Life of Mine planning.

She said currently the company is undertaking stakeholder consultations in communities within the Zone of Influence to identify sustainable partnership opportunities that can leverage on large-scale projects such as the game park assets and form an economic diversification stream through tourism.

“There are other projects in the pipeline, which fall within the ambit of community development, and these will be revealed as we implement them through the usual channels,” said Sejoe.

The Palapye glass plant currently lies unutilized and incomplete in Palapye. The glass project was conceptualized in 2007, wholly Government owned  investment arm Botswana Development Corporation( BDC) and Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company , a Chinese corporation entered into an agreement and formed Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana at 43 % -57 % Shareholding whith Shanghai Fengyue holding majority shares.

Botswana Development Corporation invested a total of P511 million for its 43 % interest and a loan to the established company. Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company on the other hand invested P113 million.

After failure to fully operationalize, Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana was liquidated. Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) remained with ownership of the erected plant and warehouse.

Last week Investment, Trade & Industry Junior Minister told Members of Parliament that Government through its wholly owned investment arm, BDC is in the process of breathing life to the project by opening up discussions with interested parties.

“There are companies and different parties such as Botswana Railways who showed interest on the facility for either manufacturing some components of their coaches or refurbishment or servicing of their coaches,” Molebatsi said.

He further noted that Government was coming from the fact that Botswana currently produces abundant resources and raw materials that can be used to manufacture glasses, creating much needed economic diversification and jobs for the youth.

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4IR and the agriculture sector

29th September 2020

Research from Agrilinks shows that more than 60 percent of Africa’s working population is engaged in agriculture which accounts for a third of the continent’s GDP. However, the sector is plagued by the use of outdated methods and tools, hence the need for rapid modernization.

The lack of modernized and up to date methods of farming have been a set back to the local farming sector which has attributed to the decline in production. Access to markets, new trends, better tools can be resolved through digitization and high speed information. The recent introduction of the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has seen local farmers taking advantage of the development to enhance their operations.

There are signs that, the expansion of high-speed Internet coverage into settlements and rural areas has boosted the production of farming locally. Farmers use the internet to access market information, crop production farming implements and vital details that influence farming decisions.

The VSAT technology enables countrywide coverage even in the most remote parts of the country, giving farmers internet connectivity through its vast telecommunications network. Results have already started showing especially in the Kaka region which boasts of cattle ranches.  Farmers can now also access the BAITS System and Herd Cards, easily. Furthermore, computerized movement permits and new Change of Ownership documents can be printed on the spot.

The BAITS system provides a platform for farmers to provide information on their livestock.

This platform is offered online, it is used for animal registration, transfer of ownership, arrival of livestock, veterinary drug treatments and removal of dead/fallen stock.

Prior to its introduction, farmers had expressed interest in using internet and digital technology to enhance farming operations but lack of internet held them back. Five years ago a website developed for livestock farmers failed to gain traction due to poor access for those in remote areas.

“Communication has been bad in this part of the country, which led me to installing a satellite phone which is very expensive to maintain. I settled for this alternative because I am required to be in communication with the commercial world as well as my farm workers. But, since the introduction of the BTC VSAT technology, farm business operations and communication with stakeholders has since improved significantly,” said Gokatweng Coach Tshekiso, a cattle ranch farmer based in Kaka.

Through the contribution of this technologies that falls under the auspices of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) it’s a matter of time Drone technology which supports numerous major applications for agriculture gets to be fully utilized by local farmers. The Drone Technology increases efficiency in certain aspects of farming. From crop monitoring to planting, livestock management, crop spraying and irrigation mapping. The VSAT and such technology will definitely work smoothly even in the most remote parts of the country.

Farmers are hopeful that with access to BAITS, they will see reduced likelihood of cattle theft because of secure identification of stolen cattle due to easy identification of stray (Matimela) cattle. In essence, there will be increased security for the Beef Export Market because customers overseas will be assured of origination and traceability of cattle therefore providing a marketing edge for Botswana beef. The network uptime on this technology is approximately 99.5%, exceeding typical terrestrial cable lines. The VSAT is designed mainly for any customer who is remote from the main grids and base stations to access voice and data services.

These technologies have the potential to have a positive impact on the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector especially during this COVID- 19 period which has greatly disrupted the global supply chain. Through the help of 41R in agriculture, Botswana has potential to be a self- sustainable farming country.

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