Little details were this week shed on how the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), working together with unnamed foreign investors ensured that Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust lost its most valuable asset, Ngoma Lodge.
By the time Boatametse Modukanele, a Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Coordinator in the Ministry of Environment stopped him, Amos Ben Mabuku had already let the cat out of the bag, “The Botswana Tourism Organisation is not always a good partner in tourism business”.
Mabuku is the chairperson of the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust and was speaking during a breakaway session of the Community Based Tourism at the Non Governmental Organizations Council (NGOCO) Stakeholder Forum.
According to Mabuku, Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT) had a sour relationship with investors in a Public Private Partnership through which Ngoma lodge was developed. It is said that the then trustees and tribal leaders were not vested in contractual issues, a loophole the investors capitalized on.
“But BTO was part of the facilitators”, Mabuku alleged. .
Earlier before Mabuku’s comments, Modukanele had set discussions in motion by inviting participants to share their experiences and challenges as well as suggest solutions to the same.
Mabuku told the house that Ngoma lodge, which the trust developed together with the foreign investors, is now run by people who live in South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. The lodge is not accessible to the communities, even the Board of Trustees.
“They are not trustworthy,” said Amos Ben Mabuku.
Modukanele, who chaired the session interjected, telling Mabuku, not to discourage other CBOs who are still beginning, and thus learning just because CECT had bad experience.
He further advised that when things go wrong, parties should not stomach grudges against each other and abandon each other in the process; but should rather walk the journey together until they agree or reach a compromise, if necessary.
Modukanele said that some Community Based Organizations (CBOs) have created serious challenges for themselves through the conduct of their previous Boards of Trustees.
“They were unadvisable. When officials from the Ministry responsible-Ministry of Environment, Environment Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) tried to help them identify foreseeable challenges they went crackers“, he said.
Earlier on a representative of a newly formed CBO in the Tswapong area had boasted how they have partnered with BTO, how they had fenced a piece of land infested with invasive plants and have calendar of events lined up in collaboration with BTO. He was confident that they were heading somewhere.