PARLIAMENT – The repossession of prime tourism land in Ngamiland and Okavango by government does not amount to hatred of residents but is merely part of government’s plan and national approach to management of common assets, junior minister at the Office of the President, Dikgang Makgalemele said Friday.
Makgalemele, who was responding to Maun West Member of Parliament, Kgosi Tawana Moremi II’s response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), accused the media of insinuating that there was a raging fight between government and communities of Ngamiland district.
“What I also find to be of concern are suggestions or insinuations, sadly amplified by sections of our media that because government continues to take a national approach to the management of common assets we are somehow seeking to undermine certain communities,” he said.
He cited a headline in the most recent edition of The Patriot newspaper (22/11/15) which reported that “Government hates Batawana ÔÇô Tawana.” Makgalemele told parliament that he expected Maun West MP Moremi to find the newspaper headline, “at least offensive” as he was well acquainted with government’s efforts to uplift the lives of the people of North-West, in terms of investment in public health, education, disease control and provision of infrastructure.
However, MP Moremi’s attempt to tell parliament whether he found the headline offensive or not were blocked by Deputy Speaker of the national assembly, Kagiso Molatlhegi who said the standing orders of parliament do not permit Kgosi Moremi to make any comment on the matter.
Moremi, who made several attempts to clear the mist on the matter later told Sunday Standard that he does not find anything wrong with the newspaper headline as it represented both his views and the views of the people of Ngamiland. At core of Moremi’s message in his SONA response was the decision by government to take over ownership of Moremi Game Reserve, Maun Education Park, Lake Ngami and Qwihaba caves. The battle for ownership of these prime tourism areas has driven a wedge between Batawana and the government.
In previous interview with Sunday Standard, Batawana royals, amongst them Kgosi Charles Letsholathebe expressed fears that repossession of prime land in the Ngamiland and Okavango regions by government could be a plot by President Ian Khama to take total control of the luxurious and booming tourism sector. Both Kgosi Moremi II and Letsholathebe argued that the Batawana communities have been left economically disadvantaged by the presidential directive which resulted in repossession of land rights from Batawana.
The elderly chief explained to Sunday Standard that the multibillion Pula tourist asset, Moremi Game Reserve was established in 1963, before Botswana’s independence, by residents of Ngamiland but was later handed to government for management in 1979. Letsholathebe added that as members of the royal family and the communities they serve, they are aggrieved by the lack of consultation displayed by President Khama. He added that President Khama’s swift decisions could be motivated by nothing but personal interest in the booming tourism industry. Tourism is one of the leading contributors to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).