Saturday, September 19, 2020

Masisi rolls back tourism foreign capital monopoly

By Calistus Bosaletswe

The President Masisi administration is dusting off an official document which was kept secret in an alleged attempt to keep Batswana out of the lucrative multi-billion pula tourism industry.

The report which was approved by Cabinet aimed in part, to give Batswana a foothold on the lucrative tourism industry which is controlled by foreigners.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Thato Raphaka confirmed this week that he was aware of the report and indicated that they are looking at implementing its recommendations to support President Masisi’s campaign to empower Batswana to go into game ranching.

Indications are that the report which was generated a year after President Lt Gen Ian Khama became president was put on moth balls either to close out Batswana from the tourism business or because there was lack of political will to ensure that citizens participate in the money spinning industry.

When Khama left office earlier last year, the document which had been approved by Cabinet had not been acted upon and was gathering dust somewhere in the government archives. Former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama is one of few Batswana who have invested in the tourism industry. Khama and former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services Director General, Isaac Kgosi have shareholdings in Wilderness Safaris.

The document titled “Review of the National Land Use Map” has identified land along Okavango Delta and Boteti in Central District as a suitable land for game ranching and recommended empowering communities in the tourism industry.

Cabinet approved the “Review of the National Land Use Map” which was sanctioned by the Department of Lands in 2009 after the department engaged a consultant known as Land Flow Solutions PTY LTD to determine the appropriate zoning of land use.

The report, which identified game ranching land in Ngami and Boteti, states that given the costly game farming there was need for communities to be financed or get into strictly controlled joint partnerships with the private sector.

The report further state that game farming on the periphery of the delta has a potential to reduce increasing human wildlife conflicts in the area since it will provide a coat around the delta.

It further points out that game farming in the periphery of the delta will also reduce pressure placed on the Anti Poaching Unit and Botswana Defence Force to reduce poaching by transferring the onus on private game farmers to manage their farms.

According to the report the game farms will create opportunities and financial benefits to communities.

The report further indicated communities’ attitudes towards wildlife are negative as they gain little direct benefit from the delta proximity. According to the report the farms would act as a buffer hence reducing incidents of poaching.

The report also proposed that all farms should be conservancies, amalgamations of several individual owned areas under one management where each conservancy should be approximately 200KM in size of four farms, each within a radius of 50KM.

Ngamiland famers are unhappy with government’s decision to keep a tight grip on information about acres of land demarcated for game ranching for more than a decade.

The famers complained that government was secretive over land demarcated for game ranching along the buffalo zone fence which spans 400 kilometres in the western part of the Okavango Delta denying the host community an opportunity to participate in the lucrative multi-billion pula business.

Ngamiland Agriculture Management Association (NAMA) spokesperson, John Benn expressed shock that that the document that demarcated game ranching was kept a secret when it was supposed to empower Batswana who have been closed out of the tourism sector.

Benn is of the view that keeping the report secret was not sabotage, but a mere lack of implementation from the ministry that was supposed to have allocated those ranches to communities.

 “I do agree with the President who is of the view that Batswana should not only run coffee shops but participate in tourism business that will benefit them. And this game ranching will indeed empower them,” added Benn.

President Masisi has expressed his disconcertment that citizens have been kept out of the tourism business and vowed to empower them to participate in the industry.  Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his confidante Isaac Kgosi.

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