Batawana Paramount Chief Kgosi Tawana Moremi II will reclaim his ancestral land known as the Chief’s Island in the heart of Moremi Game Reserve as government is in the process of handing back the contentious concessions belonging to the Batawana tribe, WeekendPost can authoritatively reveal.
In 2019 prior to the much anticipated 2019 general elections, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi promised Batawana that some of their issues would be resolved amicably citing the Maun Educational Park and the Moremi Game Reserve which the tribe had long called on the government to return to the community. In a letter dated 2nd March 2020, Tawana Land Board wrote to the Tribal Administration citing that during the board meeting which was on the 20th January 2020, considered the Savingram from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Tourism referenced ENTC 6/33/9/1 IX (42);
“In this regard the Board resolves the following; to inform Batawana Tribal Authority that Tawana Land Board is in receipt of the Savingram that the government of Botswana has handed over Maun Education Park to Batawana Community,” reads the letter signed by Land Board Secretary, G Basalumi. “Therefore, the board approves the transfer of Maun Educational Park from the government of Botswana to Batawana community. The community is therefore advised to form the Community Trust or submit the name of the established Trust in order to facilitate the transfer.”
Speaking to WeekendPost this week, the Mobilization and Publicity Executive at Matsaakgang Regiment which comprises of Kgosi Tawana II, Douglas Mokenane said a provision will be made at a Kgotla meeting which will be held soon to determine the rightful custodian of the said land. Mokenane said morafe will be given the opportunity to come up with ideas on how the land will benefit the community going forward.
President Masisi acknowledged that Kgosi Tawana II used to debate the issue in Parliament but assured Batawana that they would get their property back following the laid government procedures. He explained that the issue was being handled by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism to process and return the property to the land board. President Masisi also pointed out that the issue of the Chief’s Island concession would also be allocated through the same process.
Mokenane told this publication that the issue of Batawana land was delayed because some people had vested interest in the land. “As far as I know, there has never been any appeal by the Tawana Land Board that necessitated the Ministry to intervene. This is stipulated in the Tribal land Act, instead government should request the Land Board and not give directives as was the case,” he said.
The morafe spokesperson said both the Maun Educational Park and Moremi Game Reserve were established by morafe under the Land policy of 1939, before independence. “The Dikgosi were custodians of land allocation under the customary law”, said Mokenane. He said as the people had no money to maintain the land they allowed government to run it on behalf of the community. According to local press, Kgosi Tawana Moremi has in the past maintained that the Chief’s Island is his personal property.
He contended that it was traditionally his forefathers’ hunting ground. The Minister of Tourism at the time, Tshekedi Khama, said there was documentation to prove that Batawana gave Moremi Game Reserve—which they formed as a tribal territory in 1960—to the government. The same sentiments were shared by Matsaakgang spokesperson who pointed that the Chief’s Island belonged to Lelwapa la bogosi.
However, Keith Diako of Batawana Advisory Committee, Kgosi Tawana’s contention has been that, when all prime tourism areas in the country were taken from Tawana Land board, a number of concessions were transferred to foreign business people without consultation with locals. “The Land board are administrators of the tribal land, on behalf of the people, the land does not belong to them. But certain pieces of land were transferred from Land board custody without consultation and chaos emanated from there. There was no longer accountability.
A Minister appointed those he wanted to run the show and allocated the land to those he/ she wanted,” Tawana said. However Mokenane is of the view that government’s decision to come up with conditions is only because they want transparency and accountability in the manner in which the land will be run. He said in the past the Batawana/ Ngamiland Founa Conservation Society was the one which managed the land in question until 1979. He however said the Trust has not been active because it was only established to run the land but after the land was transferred to government the trust became inactive.
Mokenane said some members of the trust have passed on however he did not rule out the possibility of resuscitating the Trust but said the decision lies with morafe. He said another Trust was called Kgamelo which was established to fight for the land ownership of Batawana. In another twist, Mokenane said ever since government took control of the Batawana land which they know has been making a lot of money, no royalties were ever paid to the community. He said as morafe, they do not want to believe that no monies were ever paid to that effect citing that they did not want to rush any decisions.
Mokenane did not rule out the possibility of taking a legal route if the royalties are not paid but chose to say the decision will be made by morafe. Kgosi Tawana, has been at battle with government which has been simmering over for years now. At the centre of the controversy, is a 2014 directive by government to take Okavango Delta from Tawana Land board management and place it in the custody of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), through a controversial initiative termed ‘The Land bank’.
The current situation is that state land is controlled by Central Government, under the Ministry of Land and Housing and BTO; an arrangement which does not sit well with the Ngami-land people in general. The land belonged to the Batawana people and in 1962 Chief Moremi's wife saw that the local wildlife was being decimated by the hunters and created Moremi Game Reserve.
The Reserve covers large tracts of the central and eastern areas of the Okavango. It is dominated by Chief's Island which was the Batawana Chief's main hunting ground in historic times. The region is vast, with areas of permanent floodplains as well as drier seasonal areas. Moremi Game Reserve has a vast range of habitats which supports a great diversity of animal life; from large herds of elephants all year round to the waterways; home to numerous hippos.
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.