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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Kgosi Tawana reclaims lucrative Chief’s Island

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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.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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