In a lighter moment, President Masisi introduced the First Lady Neo or Mma-Atsile to Ngamiland residents. Photograph by Tidimalo Maoto
By Solomon Tjinyeka
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has assured residents of Ngamiland that his government will pay more attention to land issues in the district and solve them amicably for the benefit of Batswana. When addressing his first kgotla meeting in Maun since his ascendancy to the presidency, Masisi noted that prior to his Thursday visit, several Cabinet ministers have addressed series of kgotla meetings to better appreciate that challenges that the residents face.
Masisi said that his coming here is a continuation of what the cabinet ministers has been doing. He also assured residents that the government will continues to engage residents on issues that affect their livelihoods, adding that no major decision will be taken without engaging residents.
Masisi also acknowledged that there are some unresolved land issues in Ngamiland such as the controversial ownership of Moremi Game Reserve, Maun Educational Parks and change of land use in the region. The President said that the issue of Moremi Game Reserve and others will not be solved immediately but the government will make sure that these issues are addressed and solved amicably because they have been dragging for a long time. He added that the government is aware of that issue because Kgosi Tawana Moremi, who is the Member of Parliament for Maun West, has been the advocate on the matter.
“As a president I assure you that we will tackle this issue and resolve it amicably,” he said, adding that if it happens that he has to institute a commission of inquiry to deal with the land issue he will do that to resolve that matter. Masisi also revealed that he has ordered the suspension of leases pending the resolution of all land issues in Ngamiland, adding that “no other new leases will be allowed until we solve this matter amicably so that communities can benefit.”
President Masisi also promised that he will address issue of change of land use for communities who are residing in the Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) such as Ditshiping and Khwai. He said that communities in the WMAs have to benefit from the natural resources, adding that most of them have ploughing fields in which they want to change it to do tourism-related businesses because they are not allowed to plough or rear livestock.
He also acknowledged that there is problem of human/wildlife conflicts, which are becoming prevalent throughout the country. Masisi however said the government understands the community frustrations on damages caused by elephants. He noted that to address the problem, the government will need to engage all relevant stakeholders that include the community, researchers and conservationists on how to deal with human/wildlife conflict, particularly in relation to elephants.
Regarding livestock, he acknowledged that the farming community is faced with challenges of lack of markets due to the continuous outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD). He, however, promised that the government is doing everything they can so that Ngamiland farmers can sell their cattle. Masisi also stated that he is aware that there are lot of stray animals, which are more than 20 000, around Lake Ngami area, adding that the government has not turned a blind eye to their situation. He also stated that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has been struggling to pay Ngamiland farmers and promised that things will get better as the abattoir has secured some funds to pay farmers.
For his part, the Batawana Paramount Chief, Kgosi Tawana Moremi could not hide his excitement as he says that it has been more than 22 years waiting for a positive response on the ownership of Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park. Moremi said that already there is progress as Batawana royals has met with the Tawana Land Board on the land issues. He said that a date for their second meeting has been set and this shows that land issues will be resolved amicably. Moremi also expressed confident that Masisi is going to solve land issues in Ngamiland, which have been headache for the government and communities in the past years