BY CALISTUS BOSALETSWE
The University of Botswana, Okavango Research Institute, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa has referred to former President Ian Khama latest call for more community participation in the tourism sector as a possible change of heart after he disempowered communities during his reign .
Khama made the startling remarks at the just ended 2018 Global Sustainable Tourism Council Conference in Maun despite his policies that led to concession areas being taken from communities and the hunting ban which rendered communities trusts absolutely redundant.
Mbaiwa was surprised that Khama only sees his policies as problematic after he left the highest office.
Mbaiwa who has criticised Khama’s move to introduce the hunting ban without relying on scientific facts indicated that the hunting ban and the transfer of concession areas owned by communities to land bank disempowered many communities who relied on these concessions to make a living.
“It’s a welcome idea if he has change of heart but we should not forget that he disempowered the same communities he is talking about,” said Mbaiwa .He was of the view that communities who were custodians of wildlife species were not committed towards the conservation of this species since they were not benefiting from them.
He argues that communities are against the idea of Botswana Tourism Board (BTO) being the custodian of these concession areas. Mbaiwa further noted that currently the BTO invite companies to come and run concession areas without the knowledge of the community.
“I have learnt from the communities that they want to participate in the running of these concessions areas as opposed to BTO giving the companies these concessions. Communities want to be shareholders not landlords,” he said.
He indicated that the communities are against the idea where BTO to negotiate on their behalf. He is hopeful that President Mokgweetsi Masisi who always emphasise on the need for community participation will help the communities’ to reclaim back their land rights. He, however, emphasised the need for government to come with citizen economic empowerment that empowers indigenous citizens’ participation.
Khama further emphasised “The need for a symbiotic relationship between host communities and the tourism product offering needs close attention at the global level. It is therefore pleasing to note that this forms part of priority areas. The United Nations World Tourism Organization in its tourism also emphasizes the importance of ensuring tourism value derivation does not ignore other national interests. I therefore challenge you to give careful attention to ensuring that a balance is established between sectors of the economy if we are to have communities embracing tourism”.