Clash of the royals over tourism

SHARE   |   Monday, 21 March 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Tawana and Khama Tawana and Khama

The relationship between the Ngwato and Batawana Royals has never been a rosy one although the two are blood relatives.The bad blood between the two reached parliament on Tuesday afternoon during the tabling of the 2016/17 recurrent and development budget requests for the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism by minister Tshekedi Khama. After his presentation, Member of Parliament for Maun West Tawana Moremi who is also the paramount chief of Batawana became the only the MP to reject the budget. In what is uncharacteristic of him in parliament, Moremi said he does not see the need to debate as most of the things they say are not taken into considerations.

“To come into parliament and grovel for funds that will be given to you, I do not see how I can bring myself to be doing such,” said Minister Khama’s cousin. He didn’t waste time  and accused Tshekedi of snubbing Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) and that recently they have taken a resolution to send delegation to President Ian Khama to plead with him to ask minister to meet with them. Moremi took parliament through history on how they (Batawana) choose tourism over rearing livestock while Bangwato chose livestock farming but were shocked when government in 2003 told them that their land will now be at the Land bank. “In 2003 government now says am now taking your  areas to the land bank,  I will be the one distributing it ’ Hee bathong!,”  acclaimed the Batawana paramount chief adding that even  Bechuanaland Democratic Party Manifesto  said that  “individual and communal ownership of land will be respected.” 

The current government according to Moremi acts like the Old Russian communism where the state had all the powers and confiscated people’s land. He said that there is a vacuum of land ownership as government has decided to ursup all land and what could be seen as direct attack to the Khamas,  Moremi questioned why government is not taking all the communal land in Serowe.“I am now wondering why they cannot go to  Serowe  and take all the boreholes that some people are refusing to make tourism out of?” he asked rhetorically in reference to the commission that was tasked by President Khama to have audit of all the boreholes that his family used to own.

He said he finds it absurd for government to take their land and expect them to come and beg for development. “I find it very difficult go ka wa ka mangole ke re ke a rapela gore o mphe se e leng sa me (to fall on my knees and pray to be given what belongs to me),” hit out Moremi throwing the whole house into laughter except Minister Khama. He said that what Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism by trying to control tourism land is in contradiction to the policy of Ministry of Lands and Housing. As his parting shot, Moremi said that he won’t support the budget for the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism as it was illegal. 

In his response Tshekedi Khama also didn’t waste time and went straight to Moremi’s debate especially on the grovel issue. “Even though Honourable Moremi was talking about grovelling, whatever the word used,I think when it comes to protecting the interests of  Batswana in this country if I come and look for funding, Member, I will grovel if I have to, if it is in the interests of Batswana,” said Khama adding that he offers no apology for protecting the land. “Maybe one day when you have learned how that works you will appreciate what goes behind it,” hit out Khama.

Defending the land bank, Tshekedi said that the realised that some things were starting to reflect themselves as one  concession was sold to a concessionaire who sold it to an American who was not even resident in this country. “The trust sanctioned that sale and then there was an issue between the trust and the land board. To this day, that concession is not in the hands of the American. It is not. It is still in the name of the person who had it first. We cannot allow that to happen,” he said without revealing the trust. He said that the cannot allow a situation where concessionaires sit on a land without developing it while Batswana want to develop the tourism sector and vowed that under his leadership that will happen.

One of the benefits of land bank according to the minister is that the concessions can be rezoned and be given to Batswana to play a meaningful role in the tourism industry.On the issue that he is snubbing the CBNRM, Tshekedi Khama said that he will not wait for them to come to him but will arrange a meeting. “I would not wait for the request, I will go back to them through you and I will ask you to facilitate that meeting. Consider that I am available to do so at a moment’s notice,” he said. On consultation with land boards before the issue of land banks, Khama said that they were consulted and that they are not taking any land from any morafe.