- They claim Gov’t denies them access to prime game reserves
- Seek audience with Masisi
FRANCISTOWN: Professional tour guides and smaller Safari Operators are planning to drag government to court for being barred to operate within the country’s prime game reserves and national parks, The Botswana Gazette has established.
The small scale tourism operators are united under the Botswana Guides Association (BOGA), a platform that advocates for the welfare of professional tour guides and small safari operators. In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, the association said it has resolved to take legal action against government after all efforts to peacefully engage proved futile.
BOGA wants government to lift a moratorium that bars its members to access and operate within the most pristine and prime areas of Botswana tourism – the game reserves and national parks. Access to areas like the Chobe National Parks, the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) to mention but a few, is highly regulated.
The low end tourism sector operators feel that access to such areas, especially in the Ngamiland, Chobe and Okavango area, benefits bigger safari companies which are mostly foreign controlled to the detriment of smaller citizen owned companies. It has emerged that the high-end tourism sector is dominated by a handful of foreign controlled companies, which have access to the prime areas, which BOGA is against.
Association Chairman Kenson Kgaga told The Botswana Gazette that they have already started drafting legal documents through attorney Martin Dingake of Dingake Law partners. “We tried to engage government to lift the moratorium, but it all fell on deaf ears. We wrote countless letters which sought audience with top officials albeit unsuccessfully,” he revealed.
The Botswana Gazette has seen several letters dating as far back as 2017 written to the then Vice President (VP) Mokgweetsi Masisi and the then Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama. The latter has since been redeployed to Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture.
In the latest amongst a series of those letters, Kgaga said they requested to meet VP Slumber Tsogwane, this also did not bear fruit.
“We had meetings with both ex-tourism Minister Khama and the current Kitso Mokaila several times but they were all fruitless because their response was always negative. We have exhausted all the required protocol save for the Office of the President (OP),” appealed BOGA in the latest letter to the OP.
While Dingake could not be reached for confirmation, BOGA Chairman explained on the other hand that legal documents are being drafted. Contrary to BOGA’s claim Minister Mokaila explained that he met BOGA to address the issue.
“It is true that BOGA has written several letters about the issue but I met them on the 12th March 2019 where they informed me about their various grievances, one of being Mobile Safari moratorium. We constructively engaged on all the issues they raised and we resolved some of them,” Mokaila said, adding that he explained to them that lifting of the moratorium on Mobile operations into the parks will depend on the completion and conclusion of the draft management plans as that would assist with the decongestion.
The draft management plan is yet to be presented to the affected community. Once this process is completed Mokaila said then government will consider lifting the moratorium.