Xaxaba Residents Drag Tawana Land Board To Court

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Xaxaba Community Trust has dragged Tawana Land Board (TLB) to court demanding to be leased Zone 3 in the NG 27 concession. The trust argues that it wants to use the land for tourism activities to benefit the community.

The residents complain that the matter has been dragging for the longest time hence the decision to take the legal route. The duo made their first appearance before the Maun Land Tribunal President Tebogo Masala last week where they presented their heads of argument.

An order from Maun Land Tribunal is expected to be delivered on the 23rd of September 2022 which will determine if the matter between the two will proceed to the next stage.

The residents were the first inhabitants of the now Moremi Game Reserve before they were relocated to Xaxaba in 1968 paving way for the reserve. They were placed five kilometers adjacent to the reserve.

Given the human wildlife conflict and associated costs of communities adjacent to national reserves are subjected to, Botswana adopted a Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) model which is seen as an effort to reduce such conflicts and ensure that the local benefits exceed the costs.

While other communities living in wildlife areas benefit from natural resources through the CBNRM model, that is not the case with Xaxaba residents.

Newly formed Xaxaba Trust manager Lekopane Mokobela has complained that the matter has been pending since 2001 adding that a number of private lodges and camps are currently operating in their concession while they are denied access.

“We formed our trust which complied with the master of high court as well as a management plan in order for us to benefit through the CBNRM model but our request was still rejected,” Mokobela said.

Mokobela noted that they decided to take the legal route after having been dismayed by the response from various stakeholders including Tawana Land Board, Joint Venture Partners and the Botswana Tourism Organization during numerous consultations. He lamented that they did not receive a comprehensive answer as to what government intends to do with their land.

He further lamented that the Minister of Environment and Tourism Philda Kereng’s response to a letter they wrote to her Ministry in November 2019 gave them hope but now the matter has been dragging without any positive outcome.

“In the letter dated 04/11/2019, Kereng noted that her ministry fully understands that our inclusion in the OKMCT for managing NG 32 was meant to be temporary as the concession is far from Xaxaba making it difficult for us to participate in the tourism value chain activities in and around the concession,” Mokolobe noted.

He added that the minister further promised to assess their request and explore opportunities that could encourage citizen participation in the tourism sector however the ministry have since gone silent about the issue to date.

According to Mokolobe, Xaxaba residents only got to directly benefit from their natural resources few years after they were relocated from Moremi. He noted that families were issued special hunting licenses which allowed each house hold to hunt for consumption three animals and to collect water lily but in 1992 the licenses were revoked.

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