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Foreigners control 80 percent of tourism in the Delta – Study

Enclave tourism in the Okavango Delta marginalize communities

A new study has demonstrated that tourism industry in the Okavango is pre-dominantly foreign owned, and that the local people have been severely marginalized.  

Figures indicate that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned.
 
The study has further revealed that enclave tourism in the Ngamiland district is rife but the downside of it is that locals are economically and politically marginalized and have no control over natural resource management and conservation.

Weekend Post has learnt that much of the land and its natural resources that are the main tourist attractions are owned and controlled by private tour operators or by the government.

When addressing the Botswana symposium on wetlands and wildlife 2015 recently, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, of University of Botswana revealed that the development of ‘enclave tourism’ is one of the major problems affecting the growth of tourism in the Okavango Delta. He described enclave tourism as tourism that is concentrated in remote areas in which the types of facilities and their physical location fail to take into consideration the needs and wishes of surrounding communities. Such tourist facilities are characterized by foreign ownership and are designed to meet the needs and interests of foreign tourists.

Mbaiwa explained that in the Okavango Delta, the type of tourism that has so far developed is characterized by tourist facilities such as hotels, lodges and camps that are also foreign owned and controlled.  
 
It is has been further revealed that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned. Citizens and expatriates are reported to jointly own about 27.7 percent of them while only 18.5 percent are 100% owned by citizens.

Another study shows that about 95 percent of the accommodation and transport sectors in Maun have foreign involvement, with 60 percent of them being 100% foreign owned, 35 percent of them jointly owned between locals and expatriates with only one percent being 100% locally owned.  

Data from the licensing office in the Department of Tourism indicate that in the year 2000, out of 103 tourism-related businesses registered and operational in Maun and in the delta, 16 (15.5%) were citizen owned, 36 (35%) jointly owned (between Botswana and non-citizens) while 51 (49.5%) were non-citizens owned. This suggests that 87 (84.5%) of the tourism-related companies registered in Maun and operational in the Okavango region have direct foreign involvement.

Tawana Land Board indicates that in a total of 15 concession areas under its custody in the Okavango Delta, four (26.7%) were leased to citizen companies, six (40%) to jointly owned companies (between citizens and non citizens) and five (33.3%) to non-citizen companies. This means 73.3% of the non citizen companies operate in 11 concession areas, excluding those controlled by the central government and also leased out to operators.

Prof Mbaiwa revealed that local people in Ngamiland indicated that there was a general assumption that the delta had been taken from them by government and given to foreign tour operators. He added that as a result, citizens view the approach negatively because they perceive the domination by non-citizens as ‘selling out’ of their resources. Mbaiwa revealed that the suspicions and mistrusts between the local communities and tour operators in the Okavango Delta have since developed into another problem of racism between the two groups.  

The Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism, Department of Labour and Home Affairs and the Ngamiland District Council has confirmed these reports of racism, Weekend Post can reveal. It is reported that the racism in the tourism industry between the local black population and white tour operators was confirmed to be in existence by 53% of the managers and 73% of workers in safari camps and lodges in the delta and 60% of the managers and 47.6% of workers in tourism-related industries in Maun.

Mbaiwa explained that the racism was characterized by failure on the side of tour operators to employ local people in top management positions, hence the assumption that management positions in the tourism industry were reserved for expatriate workers. He added that part of it was due to the unpleasant working conditions for local workers in the delta like working long hours without compensations, poor accommodation in camps, and unfair dismissal of local workers and the use of abusive language often used by employers towards local workers.  

According to Prof Mbaiwa, Botswana’ Tourism Policy of 1990 is to blame for the development of enclave tourism in the delta. The policy, he revealed it emphasized the promotion of high-cost–low-volume tourism. He explained that the strategy was adopted to raise the needed revenue for the industry to sustain itself. Mbaiwa argued that as a result, from 1990 there has been a shift from encouraging casual tourist campers in favour of tourist who occupy permanent accommodation. Mbaiwa added that the policy also presumed that low volumes of tourists are more consistent with the need to protect the environmental basis of the industry.

“The Tourism Policy was implemented through targeted marketing and imposition of high fees for the use of public facilities. High-spending tourists have as a result been encouraged to visit the Okavango Delta while low-budget tourists are indirectly being discouraged by the high fees charged,” he posited.

Mbaiwa highlighted that enclave tourism is characterized by high prices charged in tourist facilities and services, such prices become unaffordable to the majority of the local people. He showed that in the Okavango Delta on average a tourist is expected to pay 400 US dollars as accommodation charge per night in a tourist camp or lodge and a one hour flight in the Okavango Delta costs on average about 220 US dollars.

“These charges make the Okavango Delta a very expensive resort area for locals to visit. Rich foreign tourists from North America and Western Europe therefore mostly use the Okavango Delta,” the professor said.
 
He also stressed that low level of Botswana’s economic development and a great deal of capital needed for tourism development and high levels of management in the tourism sector also contribute to tourism in the Okavango Delta being under the control of foreign investors. He highlighted that the facilities are operated with minimum commercial trading including local agriculture and social links with existing local communities.

“This situation therefore made it possible for a lot of money that is paid for tours by visitors to never arrive in the Okavango or Botswana, since bookings is mostly done outside Botswana either in Johannesburg, America or Europe. The exclusive nature of tourism in the Okavango Delta has tended not to be of direct benefit to the people of Ngamiland District as much of the tourist revenue is not retained in Ngamiland or in Botswana,” he decried.

Mbaiwa warned through quoting other environmental experts about the dangers enclave tourism could bring to the Okavango Delta. He explained that operators have the tendency to desire maximized profit within a short period of time even at an environmental cost. He cautioned that once the resources are depleted, tour operators and tourists usually re-locate elsewhere where there is a tourism boom and the cycle starts all over again.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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