The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama moved to ease concerns that locals in The Okavango Delta are marginalised, saying the government is committed to ensuring that all citizens benefit from the tourism industry.
Khama came under attack in parliament with MPs accusing the government of allowing few white elites to get the lion’s share in the industry at the expense of the indigenous people.
In 2009, the Tawana Land Board engaged a consultancy firm to identify tourism sites around the renowned Okavango Delta. Responding to a question from Member of Parliament for Okavango, Bagalatia Arone, requiring clarity over the initiative on Thursday, Khama said “The Ministry of Lands has already identified the plot sites but the ministry is yet to notify us. Once all formalities are complete the adverts are expected to go out to the public.”
The minister went further to assure MPs that government is committed to ensuring that citizens, particularly those living in the periphery of the Delta, benefit from the initiative: “We are committed to ensuring that only citizens…the indigenous people benefit from this initiative in the Delta.”
However Arone responded saying most of the inhabitants especially those living close to the Delta are illiterate. He said this makes it very difficult for them to understand matters related to bidding. He advised the minister to consider proper consultations and education for equal opportunities.
Following excessive floods in 2011/12 the Tawana Land Board assembled a technical team to verify the existence of tourism sites and whether they had been affected by the delta floods.
“Once the sites are handed over to my Ministry we shall follow the normal Land Bank process to distribute the land to potential investors,” Khama concluded.
The Okavango Delta was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2014. The delta is made up of permanent swamps, islands and seasonally-flooded grasslands which are a haven for wildlife.