Thursday, July 18, 2024

Khama / Masisi to fight over the Okavango Delta

A fresh fight is looming between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Ian Khama over some questionable concession allocations in the Okavango Delta.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the government’s ongoing audit of the Okavango land use has raised queries about some concessions allocated to the former president and a number of his friends.

Among issues allegedly raised by the audit is the allocation of the NG 23 Concession to Khama, Linyanti Explorations, Dereck and Berverly Joubert and Michelle Bates. The allocation which was made from the Tourism Land Bank was not put through a competitive bidding process. The tendering process was waived, and the waiver letter indicated that the award was effective from 1/01/2015.

Documents passed to the Sunday Standard reveal that in some cases Okavango Delta residents were forced to cede their areas to powerful tourism interests through the land bank. A ministerial directive dated 20 January 2014 instructed all Land Boards to transfer a total of 44 concession areas countrywide to the

Ministry of Environment, Wildlife & Tourism then under the former president’s younger brother, Tshekedi Khama. Chiefs at Khwai, Sankoyo and Mababe villages indicate that their concession areas (namely NG/33, 34, 18, 19 and 41) were taken from them by government and turned over to the Land Bank

An informant from Khwai Community Trust is quoted complaining that ‘people were forcefully removed from inside Moremi Game Reserve into present day Khwai village to create land for tourism development’.

Khama Masisi to fight 2
Ian Khama

Also queried by the audit is Khama and Dereck Joubert’s NG 21 Concession lease which expired in 2018. The partnership is over the Desert & Delta safari which has been operating eight two bed chalets since the 1990s.

Another prominent businessman and long time Khama family friend whose concession allocation raised eyebrows is Derick Brink. Records indicate that Brink and his partner in Okavango Fishing safaris, Francesca Fratus were given a 50-year lease from 2009 to 2059 for the NG 10 Concession area. The law however only allows for leases not exceeding 15 years.

A recent research paper, Enclaves and Shadow State tourism in the Okavango Delta, Botswana,” by Joseph Mbaiwa and Wame Hambira point out that in a bid to retain their stronghold in the Okavango Delta some powerful tourism interests were extracting long lease agreements.

“Land management regulations at Tawana Land Board indicate that tourism concession

areas should bear a 15-year lease for the use of resources. However, some of the tourism companies in the Okavango have lease agreements spanning 30 or

even 50 years, which far exceeds the stipulated 15-year duration.

The key informants from BTO and TLB pointed out that some of the companies

usually appeal decisions made by competent authorities resulting in long-term lease agreements being issued by the minister responsible.

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