The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama is reportedly telling anyone who cares to listen that he is the next Vice President.
In fact, a renowned businessman and philanthropist Manhar Mooney can attest to Khama’s power.
The man affectionally called TK is alleged to have tried all to ensure that Mooney’s Travel Lodge in Kasane did not get an operating licence from the Department of Tourism. Those close to the issue alleged that Khama gave Mooney the run around, until a junior minister stepped in to mediate.
“There is and there was no moratorium on the development. Travel Lodge got the building permission from the council and all the necessary permissions.
They could not get an operating licence from the Department of Tourism because TK gave them the run around,” a senior Cabinet minister said.
Travel Lodge started construction two years ago and completed the building in November 2016. It employed 70 workers in December 2016 for the December peak season.
“Khama (Tshekedi) sent the council to do the inspections long after the building was completed and the occupation certificate was granted. He wanted an extra toilet here and a shower there and all were done, but still refused to give the hotel the operating licence. Apparently, he warned the board not to do so,” the source said.
The 70 Travel Lodge employees in Kasane were worried that they will be retrenched, hence they approached the Chobe Member of Parliament, Machana Shamukuni for help. Since January, the undeterred Khama kept shifting the goalposts.
“At the end of March this year, Shamukuni then approached the assistant minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Biggie Butale but Khama could still not budge,” said the source.
He added that, “Khama arrogantly said no one can force him to do anything since he is destined
The source is worried that Khama is abusing his power and overstepping his boundaries. “Mooney is petrified of Khama and is dying silently. He is now paying back the loan and salaries with no income.”
Travel Lodge Kasane chief executive officer, Gaurang Mooney said the lodge was constructed in accordance with the requisite council approved plans.
“However, after the Occupation Permit was obtained from the council, it was concluded by the Tourism Department that the conference centre needed additional toilet facilities. Like any business entity, we are subjected to certain rules and regulations. As a law abiding corporate citizen, our policy is to adhere to all regulations and follow the correct processes. We have done so, as is our practice, and the hotel and conference centre are now operational,” he said.
Mooney said whilst the cost of the delay is substantial, their 54 employees are delighted to be beneficially employed in their respective positions. He said the facility has taken off successfully and has been well received by the market.
On their relation with Khama, Mooney said: “Our limited engagement with the minister has not been acrimonious”.
Contacted for a comment, Butale said there was a little misunderstanding with the issuance of the operating licence that he helped resolve.
“There was just a little misunderstanding and after I spoke to Khama, the licence was sorted instantly,” Butale said. Efforts to get a comment from Khama for close two months proved futile as his phone rang unanswered.
This is despite the fact that his secretary had answered the phone and promised the minister would revert with answers.