The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services has told parliament that the North West District Council (NWDC) vote against the States acquisition of a portion of land in Okavango, can in no way be regarded as some form of disapproval.
Speaking in Parliament last week Friday, Kefentse Mzwinila said, the NWDC and the Tawana Land board were served with a notice of the acquisition on the 9th of April. The council was duly notified of the intention to acquire the land and the reasons. The NWDC debated the notice during its siting in the full council meeting in June. The council did not reach a consensus, instead reaching a move that the notice be put to a vote. Majority voted against the states intention to acquire a portion of tribal land in the Okavango Delta.
“It should be noted that the notice to the NWDC was not seeking approval from the council but to solicit the views or concerns from the Tawana land board to consider before making its decision to consider the request,” said Mzwinila.
He added that the responsibility for land allocation is vested in the land board.
“The council was however advised that the State was acting as per the requirements of the Tribal Land Act to notify council,” the lands minister said. The Batawana regent was also consulted in the presence of tribal elders. The board’s position is that they have been allocating land within the reserve to various operators and users and the State was also an applicant. As much as other applicants were not subjected to public scrutiny, the land board was of the opinion that the states application should not be subjected to the process of public consultation as always been the case with all applications.
Mzwinila was responding to a question by Member of Parliament for Maun West Dumelang Saleshando. Saleshando also requested that Mzwinila explain to parliament what had informed the decision concerning the notice made to the district Council.
A decision was made by the government that it is desirable to acquire a piece of land in the Okavango Delta for use by the State. The land parcel being acquired by the State is 8 km by 81 km in size situated within areas demarcated as NG 28 and NG 21 in the North West District. The minister said that the land in question is free from many encumbrances hence no land rights will be affected by the acquisition. Part of the requested land is within NG28 which is under the jurisdiction and administration of the Tawana land board. The total area required measures around 29 acres. The land was required by the Office of the President (OP) for a government tourism facility.
“OP had negotiations with the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism about the possibility of land for tourism purposes and they came to our ministry as the custodian of land about this request. We agreed with the request that it will be in the best interest of the public, in terms of public purposes for the land to be allocated to the State specifically to OP. It was a plan that had three ministries involved OP, ministry of Environment and land management,” Mzwinila stated.
His ministry recommended the president to agree with this issue.
“The board therefore resolved to grant the required land to the State per the provisions of the tribal land and this practice is a common practice. “We’ve done it before where we detribalise land to make it State land. I am satisfied that the process of land acquisition of this parcel was duly followed,” Mzwinila said.