Mmegi Online :: Basarwa battle for relocation to Xabexau
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Last Updated
Thursday 23 May 2019, 16:27 pm.
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Basarwa battle for relocation to Xabexau

MAUN: A group of Basarwa in the Okavango Delta is embroiled in a tug-of-war with the Government over their settlement of two wildlife rich islands of Xaxaba and Xabexau.
By Staff Writer Fri 24 May 2019, 02:06 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Basarwa battle for relocation to Xabexau








In the ensuing battle that has already reached Ditswanelo 170 Basarwa of Xaxaba Island are accusing the government of betrayal by renegaging on its promise to grant them permission to relocate from the flood plain island of Xaxaba to the neighboring island of Xabexau where they can be supplied with basic social services like a mobile health clinic.

The embattled residents now want the government to either supply the social services to their present island of Xaxaba or relocate them to the neighboring island of Xabexau which they regard as accessible.

In this grueling battle government is being accused of a secret plan to relocate the residents and lease their homeland for tourism thereby turning the area into a tourism sanctuary empty of its human settlers. According to Xaxaba headman Thogotona Mpanyana, residents settled in Xaxaba in the 1960's after being relocated from their ancestral home of Tsabaoro which is on the chief's island during the establishment of the Moremi game reserve in 1962. The 74 year old Mpanyana, one of the surviving relocatees from the Moremi game reserve told Mmegi, " we obediently gave our land for the establishment of the park for conservation of wildlife not knowing we will end up being relocated again from here and becoming landless in the country we were born in. "

In 1984 Batawana regent, Kgosi Mathiba Moremi advised Xaxaba residents in a kgotla meeting to look for an alternative site from their flood prone island where they can be supplied with development and social services by the North West District Council (NWDC) but this took some time as the Xaxaba residents were suspicious of Mathiba's advise, belieiving it was a hoax by the government to relocate them from the area to make way for tourism. 

He explained that in 2007 the residents however identified the island of Xabexau and made a request to the Ngamiland authorities though the Batawana regent Kgosi Kealetile Moremi to be allowed to move to the new locality. According to Mpanyane, Ngamiland District commissioner (DC), Benedetti Malala, Kgosi Moremi, council secretary, Paulos Nkoni (retired) council chairman, John Benn (retired) and Tawana land board officials went to assess the proposed island and then promised that since the land is still leased to a hunting safari their request would be considered as soon as the lease expired. He said after the lease for the area expired in 2009 they were shocked to be informed by Malala that their request was not successful as the area was now under the control of one big tourism company (name withheld). He said Malala told him that they would have to relocate from Xaxaba to Maun. "I blatantly refused. I told her even if they don't bring us developments to coax us to leave our land we won't budge. We will settle here as we always did."

Ngamiland DC, Malala has refused to answer questions from the Monitor claiming she is not aware of the issue. She directed this reporter to her junior Thabang Dikatholo who confirmed the issue but said his superior (Malala) is the only one

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with the authority to divulge details to the media.

In a combined report on the two islands of Xabexau and Xaxaba compiled by the District Land Use Planning (DLUP) committee at the request of Malala, in 2009, DLUP advised against human settlement in the two islands.

The report in its findings stipulated that Xabexau is a wildlife breeding area which 'falls within the Okavango core central tourism development area, with high value tourism resource attraction wildlife including the Big 5.'

Therefore human settlement in the area should be discouraged, the report said. On Xaxaba, DLUP said, the island is inhabitable and dangerous for the residents due to it's partly inundation by water. It was therefore recommended that the residents should be relocated from the area to established villages elsewhere. The report observed that Xaxaba is very filthy; the residents use the bush as they have no toilets while sanitary pads are scattered everywhere. This could be detrimental, the report said, as the area is environmentally sensitive. A Tawana land board official who did not want to be named in the story could also not be drawn into discussing the issue saying all they did was prepare the report on behalf of Malala.

Mpanyana said since they settled in Xaxaba they have been cut off from the rest of the country. The island is inaccessible by road so the only mode of transport is by air or one of the big boats used for transporting goods into the tourism camps in the vicinity. He said their children go to school in Maun which is more than 70 kilometers away.

The sick have to be ferried to Maun an ordeal exacerbated by poor accessibility. He said the mobile health clinic only comes to the Safari camps nearby and residents can only get medical assistance if they enter the safari camps which are private properties. Some of the residents on the ARV programme end up taking treatment late."What we want the government to do is to either allow us to settle at Xabexau or bring us what we need here.

The safari companies transport everything they need in boats to build lodges in these areas. When it comes to us the government says we are out of reach," he said.

He revealed that they have since reported the matter to Ditswanelo in Kasane whose officer, one Mushanana Nchunga they have been in communication with. He said last year they received a letter from Ditswanelo informing them that the DC has promised to resolve the issue but nothing has happened up to date.

However, some sources say the DC office was of the view that Ditswanelo was interfering a lot in the issue hence that could have been a ploy to buy time.

Information reaching this publication is that very soon the DC will address the Xaxaba residents and inform them to relocate to the island deemed by the authorities as an informal settlement. 

The Monitor's efforts to solicit a comment from Nchunga in Kasane were futile as he failed to respond to a questionnaire sent to him a week ago.

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