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.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.