Gentrification along Chobe River keeps out villagers

Kasane fishermen complain they cannot access the river


FRANCISTOWN: Prospective small scale tourism business operators in Kasane find themselves on the sidelines due big players in the hospitality sector taking all the land along the Chobe River, The Botswana Gazette has established.

This is denying the community of Kasane and the general public access to the river. The Shoreline Development Strategy that proposes introduction of more recreational and business activities, among them fishing, cycling and pedestrian walkways along the river is similarly hemmed in by the gentrification of the hospitality sector.

The Chairman of Chobe Land Board, Johane Chenjekwa, expressed these concerns when briefing journalists in Francistown recently, saying the hospitality sector was reducing Batswana to spectators in their own country. Chenjekwa said this had long been a source of concern to the people of Kasane who had now devised the Shoreline Development Strategy as an integral part of the envisaged Kasane/Kazungula Re-development Plan.

He noted that encroachment of the hospitality sector everywhere had also been identified by the proposed Kasane/Kazungula plan as an impediment. “As land managers, we have realised that this also denies locals opportunities to participate in tourism related businesses, especially fishing,” said Chenjekwa. “We established that from Chobe Safari Lodge, there is restriction to the river front.”

Even so, he said the river front restrictions imposed by the hospitality sector should not be blamed on the owners of the businesses because the old legal regime did not observe the 50 metre buffer zone from the river front. “Due to this, we cannot dictate terms to the owners of these hotels and lodges,” Chenjekwa said. “It is entirely upon us to engage them on possible mutually beneficial solutions.”

Also addressing the press conference, the Councillor for Kasane Central, Shababa Munihango, echoed Chenjekwa’s concerns, saying the law previously did not provide for a buffer zone. “For a very long time, this has been a source of concern, especially for fishermen who have complained of difficulties in accessing the river without hindrance.