BY CALISTUS BOSALETSWE
A long-standing land dispute between the government and residents of Khumaga in Boteti sub district seems to be far from being over.
This week, fresh information emerged and fears have been raised that a recent relocation of some dwellers who owned lands along the prime Boteti river banks have been pushed away to pave way for rich businessmen.
Sunday Standard has not been able to confirm claims that scores of people who were relocated recently we not given an option to turn their fields into tourism establishment. The area ÔÇô just like its counterparts in Ngamiland and Chobe, and Okavango districts is classified as prime tourism area that has top of the class hotels, lodges and camp sites which are frequented by international tourists.
The decision not to encourage Khumaga residents to use their fields for tourism establishment in prime tourism area comes at a time when there is a concern that Batswana are unable to run tourism establishment in hot spot tourism areas which are predominantly owned by foreign nationals and companies.
Pundits have argued that Batswana were deliberately denied access to land in some of hot spot tourism areas such as Chobe and Okavango in favour of the foreign nationals.
A few years ago scores of residents were compensated as little as P1500 when government started constructing the electric fence which took a chunk of their land despite their objection leaving only some of the rich elite tourism establishment such as Leroo-la Tau.
Leroo-la Tau is currently operated by one of the Botswana Stock Exchange quoted tourism outfit Chobe Holdings and Meno a Kwena a camp along Boteti river. The place are said to be one of which British royal Prince Harry’s favourite.
A few years ago, at the height of the government decision to encompass their farms in the river front, the residents moved against the government intentions to grab their land where they engaged lawyers to stop the government from encompassing their farms into the park.
The communities who were against the government decision to grab their land engaged lawyers as a last resort since the government was not listening to their plea not to take their land from them.
Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama has absolved himself from scores of farmers who compensated as little as P1500 to surrender their farms in Khumaga river front a tourism prime area to pave way for the Makgadikgadi National Park electric fence which has encompassed most of their farms and Boteti river into the park.
In an interview, Khama indicated that he was not privy to issues of compensation extended to residents who their farms will be encompassed in the electric fence which is under construction once completed.
Quizzed on whether he offered those who had intentions to use their farms to start tourism ventures Tshekedi noted that he has not suggested that opportunity to resident.
He said that when the ministry contemplated the idea to encompass the Boteti river and the residents fields in the national park they engaged the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Service.
Tshekedi stated that his ministry was not engaged with the issues of compensation since it was done by the Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. Tshekedi indicated that he was not aware about the modalities of compensations.
Asked whether he ever suggested to residents to turn their fields located in the river front in tourism business, Khama noted that he never did since he was not part of the team that was dealing with compensation. Insiders in the tourism sector believe that Tshekedi’s failure to encourage residents has defied his reasoning that he was concerned about Batswana who have no access to hot spot tourism areas.