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The tourism concession leases that have been outstanding for many years have not yet been conclusively dealt with to the disadvantage of both concession holders and tourism operators who have been left in uncertainty.
The delay in this matter is said to have been caused by the need to do diligence review of the previously issued leases as the government had to institute a task force to among others look into issues of ownership of concession areas, compliance and security related issues.
This was revealed by the Minister of Environment and Tourism Phildah Kereng when answering a question in Parliament.
Lobatse Member of Parliament Dr Thapelo Matsheka who had asked the minister to appraise the house on the status of tourism concession leases since they have been outstanding for years. He also wanted to know why there are delays as these affect investment decisions of the current operators.
Matsheka asked the minister if she is accurately aware of the implications of this on the broader tourism development and sustainability especially on the investor confidence for both local and foreign given the contributors of the sector to non-mining Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In response, Kereng acknowledged that it has indeed taken longer than anticipated to resolve the issue but assured of their commitment to close the matter in due cause as and when the tenure of individual leases lapse. She added that the process of reviewing the previously issued leases culminated in the recommendations which were to be implemented in three phases beginning of January 2022.
The minister noted that the recommendations entailed prioritisation to issues to be attended to regarding concession with pending leases, concessions with leases that were due for renewal and vacant concession that were yet to be advertised.
“My ministry is well aware of the implications of the delays experienced on tourism development and sustainability especially on the investor confidence for both local and foreign companies and the impact of this on the contribution to the GDP,” said Kereng.
She revealed that in this regard, her ministry together with the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs are working in collaboration to expedite the implementation of the outstanding land matters affecting the different concession leases.
Kereng noted that the process includes engagements with affected leases to facilitate resolution of all compliance issues and ultimately offered requisite leases and renewals.
She revealed that the process commenced in November 2022 and they expect that by the first quarter of 2023/2024 financial year it will be normalised and then the issue of leases will commence and be continued.
Meanwhile Okavango Community Trust (OCT) Manager Seikaneng Moepedi revealed that they have been operating without a head lease since 2011. He lamented that operating without the lease is more similar to operating without land complaining that the issue limits their negotiation powers with investors.
He further said other department like Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) require leases from them when they want to conduct EIA or Management Plan reviews. Moepedi lamented that the issue limits the investor from making any developments in their camps.
“Since 2011 we haven’t made any new investor decisions because we don’t have the leases, our intention was to subdivide one of our concessions or zone it but that cannot be possible because of this issue,” Moepedi stated.
When addressing the Maun business community during the cabinet retreat in Maun last year President Mokgweetsi Masisi said that the delays in the extension of concession leases are caused by the government plan to subdivide some of the bigger tourism concessions to allocate to citizens.