Tshekedi to end Gov’t, Khumaga land dispute
Tourism ministry appoints task team to decide
Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) Tshekedi Khama will appoint a task team that will make final recommendations over land disputes between government and residents of Khumaga village in Boteti sub-district.
The matter regarding the proposed erection of a fence that will separate wildlife and people has been dragging for more than five years now without any agreement. Recently, Tshekedi Khama visited Khumaga and announced that government will appoint a task team which will make a final recommendation on the matter.
Khumaga residents however are of the view that appointment of a task team will be a formality in view of the fact that the MEWT has already designed a map which captures the envisaged demarcation of land that will be acquired from residents and that which will be reserved for wildlife. This development is said to be 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.
Chobe Holdings, which is headquartered in Maun, is the mother company of Desert and Delta Safaris and Ker and Downey Botswana, which operates combined 19 luxury lodges and safaris in Botswana and Namibia. The lodge and safaris are sparsely located in tourism rich areas including Okavango, Maun and Boteti (where Khumaga is situated). Some of the lodges owned by Chobe Holdings’ two companies include Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango, Xugana Island Lodge and Leroo La Tau among others.
Two years ago Chobe Holdings challenged the ownership of Gwaraga land, wildlife tourism by the Ngwande Trust which is owned by Khumaga residents. According to reliable sources, Chobe Holdings said 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.
The task team recommendation if it is in favour of government will result in the erection of new fences that will see residents losing part of their land which will then be reserved specifically for wildlife and tourism purposes. Ploughing fields and cattle posts belonging to Khumaga residents and nearby villagers could be sacrificed in the near future.
It is understood that several villages in Boteti, among others, Moreomaoto and part of Rakops cattle posts, will be affected by the proposed acquisition of land for Khumaga residents. Residents have always feared that President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s love for tourism and wildlife would be used to influence the decision.
In 2013, a few years after government started engaging Khumaga residents with regard to erection of the new fence, Tshekedi Khama presented a revised wildlife policy to Parliament. The policy sought among other things, to reserve more land for wildlife and tourism. The policy was adopted by parliament.
Approximately 17 percent of Botswana’s land area is designated as Parks and Reserves, a figure which is well over the international benchmark of 10 – 15 percent. In addition to this, about 20 percent of the land is reserved as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), Minister Khama told Parliament recently. This means that the planned acquisition of part of Khumaga and Boteti areas will raise the percentage of areas reserved for wildlife.
It has also been revealed that Botswana has witnessed a rapid growth of 3.7 percent in contribution of Wildlife-based tourism to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, something that makes the government eager to acquire more land for tourism purposes at the expense of the affected communities.
Khumaga is a traditional village and most of its residents depend on both arable and pastoral farming as the backbone of their livelihoods. The proposed takeover will then result in them moving their ploughing fields and cattle posts to an area where there is no access to sufficient water or fertile area for ploughing.
However, Khumaga residents are not ready to accept any offer from government and want to remain in their land. Khumaga has mandated a delegation to meet Minister Khama on their stance regarding the relocation issue. Since Khama’s meeting with Khumaga residents, several meetings comprising of leaders from Moreomaoto and Rakops were held in Khumaga to map the way forward.
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DPP drops Kably threat to kill case
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe Liakat Kably has welcomed the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)â€™s decision not to prosecute BDP councillor, Meshack Tshenyego who allegedly threatened to kill him. However, the legislator has warned that should anything happen to his life, the state and the courts will have to account.
In an interview with this publication, Kablay said he has heard that the DPP has declined to prosecute Tshenyego in a case in which he threatened to kill him adding that the reasons he received are that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. â€śI am fine and at peace with the decision not to prosecute over evidential deficits but I must warn that should anything happen to my life both the DPP and the Magistrate will have to account,â€ť Kablay said.
Connectedly, Kably said he has made peace with Tshenyego, â€śwe have made peace and he even called me where upon we agreed to work for the party and bury the hatchetâ€ť.
The DPP reportedly entered into a Nolle Prosequi in the matter, meaning that no action would be taken against the former Letlhakeng Sub-district council chairperson and currently councillor for Matshwabisi.
According to the charge sheet before the Court, councilor Tshenyego on July 8th, 2022 allegedly threatened MP Kably by indirectly uttering the following words to nominatedcouncilor Anderson Molebogi Mathibe, â€śMosadi wa ga Liakat le ban aba gagwe ba tsile go lela, Mosadi wame le banake le bone ba tsile go lela. E tla re re mo meeting, ka re tsena meeting mmogo, ke tla mo tlolela a bo ke mmolaya.â€ť
Loosely translated this means, Liakatâ€™s wife and children are going to shed tears and my wife and kids will shed tears too. I will jump on him and kill him during a meeting.
Mathibe is said to have recorded the meeting and forwarded it to Kably who reported the matter to the police.
In a notice to the Magistrate Court to have the case against Tshenyego, acting director of Public Prosecutions, Wesson ManchweÂ cited the nolle prosequi by the director of public prosecution in terms of section 51 A (30) of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana as reasons for dropping the charges.
A nolle prosequi is a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action.
â€śIn pursuance of my powers under section 51 A (300 of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana, I do hereby stop and discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused Meshack Tshenyego in the Kweneng Administrative District, CR.No.1077/07/2022 being the case of the State vs Tshenyego,â€ť said Manchwe. The acting director had drafted the notice dropping the charges on 13th day of March 2023.
The case then resumed before the Molepolole Magistrate Solomon Setshedi on the 14th of March 2023. The Magistrate issued an order directing â€śthat matters be withdrawn with prejudice to the State, accused is acquitted and discharged.â€ť
DPP seizes prosecution duties from Police
Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has finally taken over prosecution from the Botswana Police Service (BPS). The police have been prosecuting for years, but the takeover means that they will now only focus on investigations and then hand over to the DPP for prosecution.
Talks of complete takeover began as far back as 2008, but for years it seemed implementation was sluggish. However, the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, revealed that the complete takeover is expected to be completed soon.
During a presentation to the Committee of Supply by Shamukuni this week, it was revealed that the project has been implemented in 22 police stations nationwide, including Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, and Kasane. He further stated that the project has been allocated P3,000,000 for the 2023/2024 financial year to facilitate the opening of more satellite offices for the DPP.
Shamukuni said the Lobatse station is scheduled for a complete takeover by the end of May 2023, while the Kasane DPP satellite office has been established and became operational as of February 1, 2023.
“As reported previously, preparations are at an advanced stage to open a satellite office in Tsabong to curtail expenses, as well as frequent long-distance trips to these areas, as it is currently serviced by the Lobatse DPP office,” Shamukuni said.
Shamukuni said that the takeover strategy is to enable a seamless and gradual takeover of prosecution from the BPS without overwhelming and overstretching the thin resources at its disposal.
According to Shamukuni, the implementation of the prosecution takeover project has increased the workload of the 211 prosecutors in the DPP establishment.
Furthermore, the Justice Minister said DPP statistics show that the DPP has a total of 11,903 cases and dockets as of January 2023. He indicated that this is a significant increase in the number of cases being handled by the DPP, considering that in November 2021, the DPP had just over 8,471 files.
â€śOut of the total case load, 8 382 are cases pending before various courts while 3521 are dockets received from law enforcement agencies of which 1 325 are awaiting service of summons while the rest are being assessed for suitability of prosecution or otherwiseâ€ť said Shamukuni.
He further stated that The DPP has consistently maintained an 80% success rate in matters completed at court.
â€śAs at the end of January 2023, the success rate stood at 82.3% against a target of 90% whilst the average performance in respect of turnaround time for conclusion of cases at court stood at 17.5 months against a target of 18 months,â€ť he said.
BACKLOG OF CASES â€“ LAND TRIBUNAL
Meanwhile, Minister Shamukuni has revealed that Gaborone land Tribunal is experiencing a backlog of cases. Before parliament this week, Shamukuni revealed that a total 230 appeals were completed for the period of April 2022- December 2022 and only 76.5% of them were completed within set time frame.
The minister said that the Gaborone division has experiencing a backlog of cases due to manpower constraints and he further indicated that presiding officers from other divisions have been brought in to expedite case disposal.
He further indicated that the land tribunal is a specialized court that has been empowered to resolve appeals arising from land boards. â€śIt has been mandated to determine appeals from the decisions of Physical planning committees of Districts Councilsâ€ť said Shamukuni.
Land Tribunal relocated to the Ministry of Justice from Ministry of Land and Water Affairs in November 2022.
â€śAn amount of P37, 842,670 is requested to cover salaries, allowance and other operational expenses for the Department of the land Tribunal,â€ť alluded Shamukuni
BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies
When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.
Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.
Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.
However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.
“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.
The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.
In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.