Mmegi Online :: Whither are people of Ditshiping bound?
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Friday 15 December 2017, 17:56 pm.
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Whither are people of Ditshiping bound?

DITSHIPING: A villager called on authorities to help remove bats from one of the only two government houses in the Ditshiping settlement.
By Boniface Keakabetse Tue 05 Dec 2017, 18:56 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Whither are people of Ditshiping bound?








The complaint was that the bats have completely engulfed the house and are responsible for a severe stench terrorising the entire neighborhood, and has proven unforgiving even to passing tourists.

In response, the director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo told the residents that they will have to endure and wait.

“This is a wrong time to remove bats in the ceilings of that house. At this time bats have their young and removing them from the house means we may kill their offspring.  We will wait until their children grow before chasing them away,” Tiroyamodimo told residents.

This situation reflects the everyday life of residents of Ditshiping settlement who live in a Wildlife Management Area in the Okavango Delta about 66 kilometres from Maun.  It is one of the commonly held views in the settlement that government prioritises the interests of wildlife than those of the residents.  But this has always been denied as ‘untrue’ by the government.

Formed in 1961, residents of Ditshiping settlement are still waiting for government to recognise their settlement as a village so they too could benefit from government developments. To reach Ditshiping by road, one has to cross seven river channels, but there are no bridges apart from makeshift ones constructed out of gum poles. To get to school, or a nearby health facility, the community has to cross these rivers. Many have been snatched by crocodiles while crossing the waters. However, the residents have over the years refused to relocate from their ancestral land to more developed sites.

But their love for their motherland seems to come with a heavy cost. A resident, Bogale Manga revealed to Mmegi that they are always treated as poachers as the area has a high wildlife population. He added: “We are treated like poachers by Botswana Defence Force officers. There is no freedom here,” Manga said, further accusing outsiders of the escalation of poaching in the area.

On Thursday, residents made an impassioned plea to President Ian Khama to recognise their settlement. Khama became the first President in history to visit the settlement, which comprises former evictees of the Moremi Game Reserve (MGR) establishment. The establishment of MGR, one of the world’s wildlife rich reserves, has been acclaimed as one of Africa’s conservation success stories.

 But 56 years since MGR formation, the community who gave their land up for the reservation, are regretful and still suffering.

The village Kgosi, Galebuse Tshekonyana told Khama that he and others who started the settlement came from MGR. He said they were told then to settle in Ditshiping where they will be given government services and developments. Tshekonyana told Khama that since then, the government has failed to recognise their settlement saying their population has not reached the required mark of 500 people.

“The problem is that many people here work at tourism camps and the census is always done when they are

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away at the camps,” Tshekonyana said. Responding, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane admitted that the application of the settlement recognition was rejected on the basis of failing to meet the population quota and due to its location in a Wildlife Management Area.

Tsogwane said the recommendation was made by the Ngamiland District Development Committee. He noted that the North West District Council approved a motion during a full council meeting requesting his ministry to waiver the initial decision.  Khama said Tsogwane will review the issue to determine a waiver for recognition for the settlement. Khama also had to instruct Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) to look into claims that tourism operators are denying Okavango Delta communities, including those of Ditshiping access to natural resources they need for their livelihoods.

During the meeting, the members of the community complained that they are denied access to river reeds, fish and other veld products that they need for their survival and livelihoods. Due to their location in a wildlife area, the people cannot farm land or rear cattle. Yet, they are beneficiaries of the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme, which is a conservation initiative that ensures locals benefit from natural resources in their vicinity so they could help conserve them.

Recently, the government introduced changes in CBNRM via the tourism land bank to give BTO powers to enter into lease agreements between tour operators in community concessions. In the olden days, communities through their trusts entered into those agreements directly with the tour operators.  

The effect of this on communities is that the communities have now lost access rights to harvest natural resources in the leased wildlife concessions. Khaise Xhaa, chairperson of Ditshiping Village Development Committee said: “Tour operators are denying us access to harvest bees, thatching material, fish and veldt foods that we need.” Khama instructed that BTO must in a week’s time address the communities to resolve their grievances. Investment promotion manager at BTO, Tafa Tafa assured the gathering that communities would not be denied access to natural resources.

Another issue, related to the land issue was of community members blaming the Tawana Land Board for refusing them permission to transfer land use of their legally allocated ploughing fields from agriculture to tourism. The settlers said agriculture is not viable in the wildlife area hence they want to convert to tourism. The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Prince Maele acknowledged the impasse. He said they want all the people who were allocated ploughing fields to return them to the Tawana Land Board for compensation so they could be reallocated. He said the applicants have refused to rescind the land as some have taken the matter to the Land Tribunal. The commonly held view is that the Land Board wants to retake the ploughing fields and reallocate the land to rich tourism operators.

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