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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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