Friday, July 19, 2024

The CKGR, the Wilderness Safaris and Ian Khama!

Making sense of Government’s position on the dispute over Central Kalahari Game Reserve has never been easy.

From early on, Government position on the issue has remained a moving target.
And now, since the arrival of an up-market tourist outfit, Wilderness Safaris, the matter has become murkier and murkier.

The matter is not helped by still to be rebutted allegations that President Ian Khama, some members of his family and close political advisors are heavily invested in Wilderness Safaris.

Initially, the Presidency tried to refute the story by our sister publication, The Telegraph, that President Khama was a shareholder, but as fate would have it, taking the cue from The Telegraph, another weekly newspaper, the Botswana Guardian, dug deeper and produced irrefutable proof that Khama was indeed involved ÔÇô one way or another.

We support businesses venturing into the CKGR. It is the only way that Botswana Government can continue to raise money and resources that are needed for the continued upkeep of the area at least to the near pristine condition that it continues to exude.

We also encourage Batswana to be a part of such businesses.

What we, however, do not encourage is when such ventures are to the exclusive participation of the politically and economically well connected.

More importantly, we encourage that such involvement should not be shrouded in secrecy as if it is meant to hide away from public attention some illegalities.

A few weeks into his Presidency, we wrote on this space that Ian Khama had a rare opportunity to solve the intractable CKGR dispute that saw hundreds of Basarwa removed from their ancestral lands.

We said at the time that even as Government had chosen not to appeal the High Court case it had lost against Basarwa who had approached the Court seeking to be allowed to return back into the reserve, the same Government had shown a shocking disingenuousness and a lack of sincerity, compassion and sensitivity when it would not generously interpret the judgment, especially the part on supply of water inside the Reserve.

By not appealing the judgment, and yet not allowing Basarwa access to the borehole, it was clear that ours was a Government nursing wounded grudges and egos.

And then he called on Basarwa not to go back to the High Court to seek permission to use the Government borehole, but rather open up new negotiation channels with Government over the matter.
Unfortunately Basarwa chose to go back to the High Court, where they lost the case.
We understand Basarwa’s frustration over the matter.

We understand how helpless and humiliated they must be feeling, especially when stonewalled by a Government they had hoped would be the first to understand their frailties as a people, their powerlessness.

But that is all beside the point.

The question in everyone’s mind is whether President Ian Khama is, going forward, still the right man to resolve the intractable dispute of the CKGR, which now has become even more complicated with the arrival into the scene of Wilderness Safaris, a company in which he is said to have a vested interest and which, as was to be expected, Basarwa of CKGR now look, hold and view with inimical suspicion.

Or has President Khama now become so compromised that he cannot be expected to dissect the matrix?
In a fast pace, the CKGR is no longer about what the issue used to be but rather about our political elite’s failure to resolve it.

How fast things change!

President Khama arrived on a ticket of astounding popular goodwill.
So many people were willing to listen to him and give him the benefit of doubt.
Even the often belligerent and bellicose Survival International was willing to call a ceasefire, if only to allow the President a honeymoon which he so well deserved and also give him room, space and benefit of doubt.

That goodwill has now tragically dissipated at the feet of a tourism company the true intensions of which we are still to know.

If the CKGR flares up again (as it is so likely to do) Khama will be as much to blame for it as his predecessors if not more ÔÇô all because of the Wilderness Safaris.

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