Tawana land board repossesses wildlife concessions

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In a move set to ruffle feathers in the tourism sector, the Board of the Tawana Land Board has taken a bold decision to terminate concessions within the Moremi and Khwai tourism areas currently held by private entities and community development trusts. The Board, at its meeting last week Wednesday resolved to terminate land agreements in the Moremi area and hand them back to the Land Board.
The Tawana Land Board has been embroiled in a Court battle with the Khwai Development Trust over the renewal of a lease that was entered into by the two parties. Tawana Land Board refused to renew the Khwai Development Trust lease, forcing the latter to approach the High Court for redress.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a letter written by Deputy Attorney General Morulaganyi Chamme informing the Secretary of the Tawana Land Board of Government’s intention to defend the Land Board’s decision not to renew the lease for Khwai Development Trust. ‘‘The Attorney General is of the view that the action brought against the Board is likely to have effect on major government policy’’, Chamme wrote in his letter, dated February 12, 2018. In his grounds of defence, Chamme argues that Khwai Development Trust failed to disclose material facts to the Court when they filed their suit.
He indicated that after the notification of intention to renew the lease, there was a directive by President Ian Khama to transfer land used for tourism to the Central Government. “For areas reserved for communities, the responsible ministry was to enter into leases with operators and remit lease rental to Land Boards’’, the Attorney General noted.
It is further noted that the Khwai Development Trust became an active participant in the sub leasing of NG 19, Tsaro lodge through the agency of Botswana Tourism Organisation, an entity under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism.
‘‘The Plaintiffs (Khwai Development Trust) have been aware since 2013 that a new lease agreement is not going to be issued in their name. They consented or acquiesced to land being leased to someone else. Therefore, there has been no breach of any assurance regarding renewal of a lease agreement’’, argues the Attorney General.
Chamme is of the view that the treatment being applied to the Khwai Develoment Trust is the same as that of similarly placed communities.
‘‘There has been no breach of any legally binding pronouncement by His Excellency the President nor any provision on the Tribal Land Act (Cap 32:02). Under the circumstances the Tawana Land Board has been unjustifiably sued,’’ Chamme buttressed.
The case is scheduled to be heard before Judge Bashi Moesi at the Francistown High Court on September 13. The Khwai Development Trust is represented by Attorney Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners and is cited together with its Board of Trustees being Isaac Duma, Teko Kwere, Obakeng Ntsogotho, Mika Thoromo, Boipuso Sakanyane, Mofenyi Lngwane and Tshekelang James in their official capacities.