Vote Rejects Masisi’s Okavango Delta Land Request

  • Land board torn between council’s position and the presidency
  • Land board legally forced to consider position of the council
  • Council maintains it won’t endorse a move wrapped in mystery

TEFO PHEAGE

Despite being permitted by the law to acquire any land from any land board in the public interest, President Mokgweetsi Masisi is reported to be in a dilemma over his government’s plan to acquire a 22-hectare plot that covers part of Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta because councilors of the North West District are opposed to the move.

Orange

Out of a total 37 councilors who attended a full council meeting to discuss the matter, 22 voted against it while 14 voted in support of the President. The councillors were clear that they would not endorse a decision wrapped in mystery and criticised what they called poor consultation around it.

The Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services was last week forced to retract a press release stating that the councillors were consulted in accordance with their demand.

The power of the councillors to oppose are yet to be measured and the law uses the word “request’ in reference to the government’s consultation gesture, but it is not known if such a request can be refused with finality. The law dictates that when the state seeks to acquire land, it only consults the land board and the council as representatives of the communities.

The law further places the council at a central point of the final decision-making in such matters, saying the land board may, having ascertained the views of the district council, grant such land sought to the state.

“If the President determines that it is in the public interest that any land the ownership of which vests in a land board under Section 10 should be acquired by the State, the Minister shall serve notice on the land board and district council, and request that such land be granted to the state, and the land board may then having ascertained the views of the district council on the matter, grant such land to the State…” reads the Tribal Land Act Cap 32 (I).

Yet on the other hand, the government seems to be pressing ahead with acquisition of the land. “It is in line with the law for government to acquire portions of tribal land that covers a portion of Moremi Game Reserve (NG/28) and NG/21 in the Okavango Delta, for the benefit of the public. The resultant area gives a total of about 22,029.2 hectares. The piece of land in question is being acquired for the establishment of a secure state/government facility for tourism purposes. In doing so, the acquisition ensures that the current land use of the area is not conflicted with or adversely affected.”

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitations Services, Bonolo Khumotaka , said this in a public statement recently. However, she turned down a request from this publication for an up-date this week.