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GwezoTshaa Trust roars back to Life

STAFF WRITER
George Maphane
After being written off by many observers following allegations of mismanagement, GwezoTshaa Natural Community Trust is roaring back to life.

In the early 1990s, the trust used to be a force to reckon with as it was one of  the promising community projects in the country.

But a number of factors ganged up against the project resulting in its collapse in the late 1990s. Now, after going for decades without a community project, residents of Gweta, Zoroga and Tsokatshaa intend to revive the outfit.

“The fact that it had collapsed was a lesson we are prepared to avoid; We avoid the same pitfalls that undermined our efforts,” says the current chairperson, George Maphane.

The trust that was formed in 1996 was a result of three localities, Gweta, Zoroga and Tshokatshaa coming together with the main objective of generating income and creating employment for the community.

Some of the objectives of the trust are to educate its members on the utilisation of natural resources found in their localities in a sustainable manner as well as generating income for its members. 

But like many other community trusts in the country, GwezoTshaa was not spared from challenges due to poor management. When it did, as a newly developed organisation, the trust ran into some serious problems. Maphane acknowldges that one of the problems was the manner in which the trust was managed.

“The biggest problem is lack of commitment since the project is about volunteerism and lack of financial resources. The trust was dormant like all others because of mismanagement,” he says. Now, Maphane with other members of the Trust and residents from the three localities want to bring it back to its heydays. As part of efforts to raise funds that will be used to revive the trust, Maphane revealed that a planned sponsored walk is scheduled for 11th April this year.

“We will walk from Gweta Kgotla to Nghxasini Pan. The board is taking care of all preparations as we speak,” he said. While no chief walker has been identified yet, Maphane said the Board intends to consult the community first to help it identify one. The preparations are not without challenges though. For instance:

“The preparations are ongoing but the only snag is we have not received pledges from possible walkers which makes it difficult to prepare.  The trust was registered in 1996 but stopped operation. The trust needs funds for daily running costs. Now the idea is to resuscitate it and create employment and wealth for our people,” said an optimistic Maphane.

Some believe that the dramatic and promising turnaround for the trust that has been dormant for quite some time is a welcome development. “The is a need to succeed which can only happen

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if there is money and have things done properly. The fact that it had collapsed was a lesson and we are prepared to avoid the same pitfalls.  Currently we are building a camp site and accommodation at Nghxasini Pan.  The challenge is that the funds granted were eroded by inflation; what we have will not complete the project,” he said.

The new Maphane-led Board intends to change the way things were done in the past.

“I can’t say for sure (some of the factors that led to trust collapsing) but it is likely to be financial mismanagement which we hope to avoid by all means. Financial prudence is important.

Funds have to be used wisely on the project,” he admits. Currently, he pointed out, there is no source of income “but we hope in a short time the camp will be operational and there can be some income generation.”

Touching on one of the projects that was a success for the trust, Maphane said the Morula “project collapsed and the machines were vandalised, plastic containers stolen.”

According to a report that was compiled during a seminar held in Maun in 1999, among the general membership, only a few understood what GwezoTshaa trust was intended to do as the majority remained behind asking questions about what they were doing.

The trust had to work hard because one of its objectives was to the general membership. Address a series of kgotla meetings to address this.

The report shows that with the support from members of the community, by the end of 1996 the community decided to start with Morula fruit.  The fruit was used by members of the community for a long time making beer or even stronger alcohol.

The community decided to commercialise the fruit to add more value. “We had the discussions with different companies from South Africa that is Oasis Breweries and Granor Passi. We had told them about  our resources and they asked us to collect fruit and send it to South Africa to extract juice,” a former member of the defunct was quoted as saying in the report.

In 1997 with the financial support from the Natural Resource Management Project (NRMP) funded by USAID and the Government, the trust started to produce pure puree.

But the success of the Morula project was short lived.  Oasis Breweries ran into its own troubles as a company.

 The company had internal problems before it could buy the remaining product. Oasis Breweries was going public ad had to be taken into a group of companies; this rendered the agreement between it and the trust a nullity.



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