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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.