Batawana regent, Kgosi Kealetile Moremi has entered the Moremi Game Reserve fray on the side of her brother, Maun West MP, Tawana Moremi. Brother and sister have penned a letter to the Tawana Land Board (TLB), asking it to tally up revenue that has been collected at the game reserve since 1979 and surrender it to the Fauna Conservation Society.
The latter, which was traditionally incorporated in 1962, is the body through which the game reserve, which was established in 1963, was managed. The year 1979 was when, upon the instruction of then president, Sir Seretse Khama, the government took over the running of the game reserve. Elsewhere Tawana has contended that when this happened, the Batawana tribe were agreeing to the transfer of management and administration and not to transfer of ownership.
“We know that Tawana Land Board has been awarding leases for sites in the Moremi Game Reserve. There has never been any request for consent for such grants from the owner of the Game Reserve,” reads the letter by the Batawana royals. On the basis of the foregoing, they are asking the TLB to provide “a detailed account of such leasing, to whom, for what consideration, over how long. Further to that, you are requested to compute revenues of such leasing with a view to remit to the account of Fauna Conservation Society.” Former attorney general and now minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, has said some things in the past that Tawana and Kealetile hope will bolster their case.
When parliament debated the Tribal Land (Amendment) Bill in 1993, Skelemani said that the amendments “could not deprive anyone who has an existing right of that right, because that would be unconstitutional. If indeed at the time of the passing of the Act, you have acquired private rights, then they could not go over to the Land Board, that right vested in you remains vested in you and would not pass to the Land Board.” Moremi Game Reserve was established before TLB came into being. The Moremis are also pinning their hopes on Section 88 (2) of the constitution which says that legislation having an effect on tribal organisation or tribal property must be referred to the House of Chiefs.
“As the Wildlife and National Parks Act 1992 purports to deal with Moremi Game Reserve, it is [beyond the powers of] the constitution. The National Assembly has confirmed that the Bill was not referred to the House of Chiefs. Accordingly, whatever mandate you derive from the said Act is null and void,” their letter says. As an opposition MP, Tawana can go all the way in his quest to restore ownership of the game reserve to Fauna Conservation Society. On the other hand, Kealetile is a civil servant who may find it extremely difficult to fight the government with as much vigour as her brother can.