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BaSarwa Halt Kgosi Tawana’s Demand for Land

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  • Say Tawana does not have any right to Chief’s Island

TLOTLO KEBINAKGABO

Botswana Khwedom Council (BKC), a body that represents the interests of BaSarwa, has blocked BaTawana paramount chief Kgosi Tawana Moremi’s land claim over Chief’s Island which Tawana says belongs to him through his forefathers.

Believed to be the largest Island in the Okavango Delta, Chief’s Island is 70km long and 15km wide and is so named (Moremi) because it was once the sole hunting preserve of Kgosi Mathiba, Kgosi Tawana’s forefather. Kgosi Tawana says he has a personal stake in Moremi Game Reserve that forms the largest area in Chiefs Island and has writen a letter to Tawana Land Board demanding official allocation of the land on that basis.

But BKC has wriiten a letter of its own the land board opposing Kgosi Tawana’s claims and request because BaTawana are relative latterday arrivals in Maun where they found the San (BaSarwa) and BaYei living in the land in question.

“It is also trite that the land in question belonged to the San communities of Gudigwa, Khwai and others who used it for hunting expeditions before the arrival of the BaTawana tribe,” BKC says in its letter that is signed by the organisation’s Executive Director, Keikabile Mogodu. “It beats common sense and logic how the land came to belong to a tribe that later arrived finding other tribes in that land. We therefore are baffled that the BaTawana would claim the land in question as their land.”

BKC cautioned Tawana Land Board to treat the matter because it could open wounds of land grabbing among the San and the injustices they suffered as a result. “This matter should be attended to by the responsible ministry, if not the Office of the President,” they said in their letter before stating that they oppose Kgosi Tawana’s application since it prejudices other tribes in Ngamiland who are the rightful owners of the land.

However, in Kgosi Tawana’s view, anyone who believes they are entitled to the land can approach the land board about it. “It is something that must be encouraged and I am okay with it,” he said in an brief interview with The Botswana Gazette yesterday.

The issue of Kgosi Tawana and Chief’s Islands dates back many years as he once accused the government of taking the land through the Land Board and handing it over to rich and wealthy tourism operators.

Moremi Game Reserve was established in 1963 by BaTawana who handed the land to government to take care of its administration in 1979. Today Chief’s Island is home to Wilderness Safaris’ famed Mombo Camp that is located inside Mombo Concession in the reserve. It is said to be a “predator capital of Africa” and is a mecca for international tourists.

Meanwhile, the Tawana Land Board was to meet with BKC about the land on Monday last week but the meeting did not take place as BKC was told to provide power of attorney to the land board authorising it by letter to pursue the matter on behalf of BaSarwa.

It remains to be seen how the matter will be resolved because President Mokgweetsi Masisi used the occasion of Kgosi Tawana’s 50th birthday party to announce that the government would give back Maun Educational Park (MEP) to BaTawana and end a rift between the two over it.

President Masisi said the issue was being handled by the Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism. He also stated that the community trust would apply for the park and the land board would allocate it to them. President Masisi pointed out that the issue of Chief’s Island would also be allocated through the same process.

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