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‘It’s been 7 years: where’s our P2.9 million?’

OKMCT losing trust in Govt
Back in 2015, government promised to pay out the money it owes to Community Trusts, including P2.9 million to the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (OKMCT).

Seven years later and the Trust is still to receive a single Thebe.

The prolonged delay has become a source of much frustration to OKMCT, which covers six villages within the Okavango Delta, namely: Daunara, Ditshiping, Boro, Xhuaxao, Xharaxao and Xhaxhaba.

In a heated interview with The Voice this week, the Trust Manager, Seikaneng Moepedi revealed the cash had been earmarked for building and developing some of their camps.

These projects have since been put on hold.

“It is taking far longer than we expected. Some of the money should have been paid in 2015 and the rest in 2016, but here we are still waiting,” fumed Moepedi.

OKMCT runs NG32 which they sub lease to big tourism companies. Currently they are in joint partnership with Johan Calitz Hunting Safaris, Santuary Retreats and Silver Spears, which runs Gomoti Plains camp.

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In 2015 and 2016, both Johan Calitz and Silver Spears paid a total amount of P9 924 005.50 in lease fees to Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) on behalf of OKMCT. However, the money was never transferred to the Trust as was originally agreed.

From the total amount, the Trust has to pay Tawana Landboard P51, 187.50 which is an agreed percentage of annual income as per the lease agreement.

“Every year we are promised the money. We have written letters to the Ministry to no avail,” added Moepedi.

It seems their persistence might finally be rewarded.

Last month, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Dr Oduetse Koboto promised the money would be paid out ‘very soon’. He also noted it was not only OKMCT that was owed by government.

For its part, the Trust says due to the financial pressure Covid-19 has inflicted on the tourism industry, the sooner the money is released, the better for its communities.

Villages that fall under OKMCT are in a wildlife protected area and therefore do not enjoy some of the developments and services common in other villages around the country.

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Nonetheless, through the Trust they get free transportation in-and-out of these settlements, either to access health, financial services and shopping. Youth in the area with outstanding business plans are given grants to kick start their businesses, through the Trust. Houses and toilets are also built for the elderly.

“During our financial year covering 2019/2020, we built 24 houses and toilets in our settlements for our elders,” revealed Moepedi.

These are hard to reach areas especially during the rainy season and OKMCT has played an active role in making sure wooden bridges are built to ensure year-round access to these settlements.

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