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Batawana to sue Gov’t over Moremi Game Reserve

Batawana royals led by Kgosi Tawana Moremi II are in the process of launching a court case to contest the 1979 presidential directive which ordered Moremi Game Reserve to be transferred from the community to the government.

Moremi Game Reserve which was established in 1963 by Batawana was reassigned to government to take care of its administration and management in 1979. However, a bitter debate has erupted in recent years between government and Batawana royals with regard to the ownership of the game reserve.

According to Batawana Paramount Chief, who is also area Member of Parliament, Tawana Moremi the tribe seeks to compel government through court to produce records showing an agreement reached by the two parties in transferring the ownership of the game reserve.

Moremi told this publication on Thursday that they have already engaged lawyers on the matter with the view of seeking justice from the courts of law. Moremi could not divulge the name of the lawyers yet for fear of possible harassment by those who oppose the campaign.

“We have protected our evidence of records and there are secured in all corners of the globe,” said Moremi.   

Moremi, who is confident that the Game Reserve is owned by the community, said his bid to return the game reserve to the hands of the people was a target of ruling party propaganda.

“During a rally which was addressed in Maun in the run up to elections, I was described as a poor chief who wanted to use the game reserve to enrich himself,” he said.  “But later on people understood what we are trying to achieve and more people are starting to support our resolve.”

The Batawana Chief also highlighted that after an unenviable period, the tribe has managed to raise finances enough to fund the court case.

“There has been pressure from the media and the community to take the matter to court but we do not want to rush the case lest we lose it [case] on small technicalities,” he said.

Government has in the past consistently refused to produce records showing the agreement it reached with the community over transferring natural resources rights. “It is outright unlawful for government as the trustee of records to conceal the agreements,” he argued.

Moremi, has also raised the matter in Parliament when responding to Minister of Finance and Development Planning as he noted that government’s decision to ‘unlawfully’ transfer ownership of Moremi Game Reserve, has left people in poverty.

“The people of North West are looking for answers but the answers do not come from the budget. Government is doing nothing with the drought situation, and the people have not been able to sell their cattle in the last seven years because of foot and mouth,” he said.

It was reported in the last few years that Moremi Game Reserve was generating about P60 million annually, an amount which could be vital for the community empowerment according to the Batawana Chief.

“There are different models we can use to generate income and empower the community through affirmative action measures that will ensure that the community becomes part of the value chain in terms of business operations of the game reserve,” he contended.

Kgosi Tawana said the current arrangement does not benefit the locals since they are not part of the supply chain and people and companies who are often contracted to do business in Moremi Game Reserve are not from the North West.

Moremi mentioned the landmark 2006 court ruling on Basarwa being a prime example of what government does to owners of land.

He stated that despite the court ruling affirming that Basarwa were owners of their land, government has not given them royalties both for mining and tourist activities in the area, or worse still, government wanted to chase them out of their land.

The former chairperson of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi expressed worry that government is failing to produce evidence in records yet it continues exercising control over natural resources rights at the expense of the impoverished communities. “Every time the matter of records is brought up, the records mysteriously disappear,” he said.

Previous Minister of Lands and Housing Lebonaamang Mokalake told Parliament that currently, the resources in all Game Reserves and National Parks in the country are managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, while Land Authorities manage the land and are responsible for issuing land rights to interested parties.

However, Tawana believes Moremi is a private Game Reserve which is wholly owned by the community. Management and administration of tribal land and the Flora and Fauna in the Moremi Game Reserve are now managed by the Tawana Land Board in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

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Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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