After the new tribal land act allowed for registration of ‘Matlotla,’ Tawana Land Board has revealed that recent developments now show that some locals are using this opportunity to gain rights over pieces of land illegally.
According to the board’s chairperson, Emmanuel Dube these applications are emerging in prime areas such as along the major rivers and within the Okavango Delta. Speaking during a recent press conference, Dube said they are aware that when people were allowed to claim matlotla some rushed into the delta claiming that they also have ruins within the prestigious tourism rich site.
Dube complained that as people want to claim matlotla there are those who bear witness for them without having confirmed the accuracy of the claims. Though he said people are allowed to claim matlotla everywhere including within the delta, Dube noted that there is however a procedure that is followed to confirm the accuracy of such claims.
He explained that the board does independent assessments adding that there are other players in the process whom they call upon to also closely monitor the registrations. “We are not saying we will refuse giving people matlotla, but we plead with those who want to claim them illegally to stop that because our assessment will reveal the truth” he pleaded.
Dube added that there are also instances whereby people seek to claim matlotla within concessions already allocated to communities who in most cases are given full rights over those areas. He explained that in those instances if the claims are accurate they then engage with the affected parties to resolve the matter which sometimes includes allocating the latter another area or relocating the other party.
Meanwhile Dube has confirmed that majority of the concession leases in the delta have expired admitting that they have taken long time without communicating with holders as to what will happen regarding their expired leases. The issue has left many tourism operators in limbo as they are worried about what will happen to their leases.
However, Dube has clarified that the operators were not stopped from operating despite their leases having expired adding that the operators even up to now continue to operate with expired leases. He revealed that an arrangement is ongoing to see what will happen to all concessions in the delta adding that when time comes for that decision to be made they will engage with those who are affected so as to map a way forward.
According to the chairperson, the reason why the issue has taken time is to do with the control of allocating tourism concessions which was once taken away from the land boards and given to the then Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism through a directive but later transferred back to the boards.
“We then had an arrangement that as they return we should look into them to see what happened the period they left and when they were transferred back,” said Dube explaining that the arrangement has been divided into three phases.
He indicated that they are already done with phase one adding that some of those who were in that category have even signed new leases. Dube said they are hopeful to soon complete the remaining phases. “We plead with those worried to know that we are aware about the issue and when the time is right we will engage with them to conclude the matter.”