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How Khama killed the Tourism sector

SHARE   |   Monday, 20 August 2018   |   By Thomas Dust Nyoni
Tshekedi Khama [L] and former president Ian Khama Tshekedi Khama [L] and former president Ian Khama

A decade of misplaced hope

Former President Khama killed the Tourism sector. Batswana were left hopeless and jobless as he crafted and engineered the hunting ban. Jobs were lost and not replaced. Photographic tourism, the non-consumptive utilization did not yield any result.


Batswana in the vicinity of wildlife management areas are impoverished. A lot of harassment continues in safari companies, and all the wealth generated from our resources continues to be enjoyed by foreigners. Khama's approach resulted in misguided conversion of hunting zones into photographic areas. It’s possible because the former president is alleged to have financial interest in some concession areas that were photographic, including Okavango wilderness. It was all about him not Batswana. Khama must apologise to Batswana for subjecting them to poverty.

Khama did not involve local communities in managing the wildlife base, instead he used soldiers which is not bearing any fruit, case example of rhino poaching in Mombo. How many Batswana are allowed in the Mombo area except few,  while a circle of his friends see these animals frequently with ease.


Ironically he has been labeled as a conservation icon, receiving awards, yet the poor Batswana are wallowing in poverty. To me he is not a conservation icon but an opportunist who believes the world revolves around him and his believes. His policies towards wildlife management were encircled with self-enrichment and pleasing the white entrepreneurs in Europe. I must admit that your love for animals is undiminished but forgot another aspect of wildlife management which is prudent utilization based on credible research findings. A strict adherence to principles of consultation and community engagement was needed to ensure the sustenance the natural wealth of Botswana while ensuring the flow of benefits and decision making authority to its locals. This policy based around hunting ban and self-interested stress on eco-tourism is damaging not supporting long-term conservation, and I trust the new regime will correct this within scientific limits.

Batswana should derive benefits from wildlife and any natural resource. Batswana should be involved in the running of the wildlife base, with guidance from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.  Misguided deployment of soldiers will not in any way stop poaching, rather it will worsen the situation. I remember some of the soldiers who were based on Ihaha were later caught with Ivory that they hid during the line of duty.  Khama’s approach to law enforcement than Public Education has not yielded any tangible results. His actions resulted in isolation of communities and Indigenous Knowledge systems. He should have known that community participation and community based management are topical themes in current policy and discussion revolving around decision-making processes especially those dealing with natural resources management. These are fundamentals in conservation. During your tenure there was misled perception through CBNRM that your government has accepted the need to either cede or devolve control and management of natural resources to the local communities, but reality is that the communities were not part of the planning and budgeting which are crucial in decision-making.


Communities were seen to be more involved in the implementation of natural resource management programs but lacked ownership of the projects. This causes lack of commitment to the programs and at times hostile reaction from the communities. If you sit in wildlife offices and listen to farmers reporting losses to predators, you will feel the anger and negative sentiments. They don’t value wildlife as theirs. When the CBNRM was crafted its solo intention was seen as one of the most important manifestations of true decentralization as it relates to control of rural resources. CBNRM programs, if successful, can be models of local empowerment, imbuing communities with greater authority over the use of natural resources. Khama’s secrecy and authoritarian move left this noble idea dysfunctional.  What really motivated the hunting ban remains a mystery, and none of the black Batswana has benefited any medal from you on tourism. Khama associated himself with friends who misguided him. He rendered CBNRM programs, if successful, can be models of local empowerment, imbuing communities with greater authority over the use of natural resources.

He rendered the department of wildlife useless, and further deployed a soldier to head an organization that needs specialty. His actions moved from conservation to militarization and law enforcement. Under his leadership many conservationists (Directors) at the department lost their jobs because they gave thorough analysis of conservation principles that you didn’t support. He did not allow for a divergent opinion from his belief. Law enforcement is a small integral part of conservation, but the major theme should be conservation, utilization and community empowerment.it is an established truism in conservation if devolution of power is done,  community appraisal systems has given the people greater opportunities to influence policymaking processes and the implementation of policies, programs and projects. Empowerment of communities through their involvement in the decision-making processes, from top levels to low levels, is vital for supporting pro-poor policies, programs, projects, improved service delivery, poverty reduction, and the attainment of the millennium development goals (MDGs).


Simply put Khama was feared and he was ruthless. Give the current presidency the time to listen to the voice of conservation, and you will see how we will create jobs and take people away  from poverty. Khama appointed his brother to the position of minister of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism despite that there were many qualified personnel in that department.  In our new approach there would be direct community investments such as attending meetings, providing village scouts, and firefighting and border maintenance. Indeed some of its most spectacular successes, of wildlife resources, are to be found in instances of high revenues from safari hunting. The new government must introduce utilization of wildlife and many concession areas would employ biologists who would help with standardized monitoring tool for wildlife populations within their area. This concept was once introduced to concession area owners who were willing to engage in this noble idea, and employ their own biologist. Creating jobs that you have failed to do so, rather many people lost their jobs, and ended up doing all sorts of social ills, like drinking alcohol and teenage pregnancy.  The new approach is to formulate the policy that can integrate the communities through granting them veto power in voting for programs, projects and activities. The communities surrounding WMAs would be awarded the opportunity to formulate their own ideas which will be supported financially and technically by the government, NGOs and other institutions. This will increase community ownership of resources and processes thereby encouraging sustainable utilization of natural resources.  These communities resides on the border of wildlife areas and incur huge costs and hence should not be treated as passive recipients of technocratic and bureaucratic solutions from the top as was the case with Khama’s leadership.


I have said in the past, and still maintain that for any effective utilization of the natural resources, local communities should not be excluded in the decision making process. Too much militarization will not yield any tangible results, yes the department of wildlife needs to be empowered BUT more focus should be on public education and noble  ideas of how Batswana can benefit from our resources. Even our national anthem attest to this “Fatshe leno la rona, Ke mpho ya Modimo, Ke boswa jwa borraetsho”. [Blessed be this noble land, Gift to us from God’s strong hand, Heritage our fathers left to us]. “A re jeng re akole meamuso ya Lefatshe le, eseng ope gape”.   A gare a tshwanela go dirisa boswa ka keletlhoko betsho

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