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.
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.
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.
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.