Saturday, January 22, 2022

‘Khama has personal tourist interest in Batawana land’-royal

MAUN ÔÇô The recent 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, a member of the Batawana royal family has said.

Kgosi Charles Letsholathebe this week expressed fears that the repossession of Batawana land could be part of a grand plan by President Khama to take ownership of the tourism sector, which is an economic lifeline of the region. Tourism is also a leading contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the domestic economy. Letsholathebe’s utterances come in the wake of a recent announcement by President Khama that he has taken possession of keys to some caves in the north western parts of Botswana.

But the Batawana royals were not amused and have reportedly decided to fight back. Letsholathebe said they strongly suspect that President Khama will soon issue a directive that will grant him total control of the popular Lake Ngami as he did with other luxurious tourists’ sites in the Ngamiland region. Letsholathebe, who is an uncle to Batawana paramount chief, Kgosi Kealetile Moremi and her brother Kgosi Tawana Moremi, said Batawana communities were left economically disadvantaged by a recent directive issued by President Khama, which repossessed land rights from Batawana and gave them to the state.

“Economically such communities have nothing to show. The President has taken much of the prime land that did not only belong to us but also gave us economic gains. I will not be surprised if in no time he make another directive concerning Lake Ngami as his interest seems to be more on tourism than livestock”, Letsholathebe said.

He added that transfer of land ownership rights, particularly those of Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Education Park, would result in loss of revenue for the North West region. The elderly chief explained 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.

In a brief interview with Sunday Standard at the Maun Kgotla on Friday, Letsholathebe said as members of the royal family and the communities they serve, they are aggrieved by lack of consultation by President Khama. He added that President Khama’s swift decisions could be motivated by nothing but his personal interest in the booming tourism industry. Khama has shares in one of the leading wildlife companies in the country, Wilderness Holdings.

Sunday Standard is informed that Batawana recently wrote a letter to the Office of the President calling for the properties to be handed back to them, after the directive that listed Moremi amongst the sites that are ‘readily’ available for takeover by government. On another issue, Letsholathebe said they had thought the Minister of Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, would come and brief them about the recent listing of the Okavango Delta as a United Nations World Heritage site, particularly in relation to the implications of the listing to local communities.

“But we are still waiting. Instead of addressing the people who will be directly affected by this listing, he has decided to host meetings in Gaborone,” he said.

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