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XAXABA RESIDENTS THREATEN TO SUE GOVT OVER MOREMI GAME RESERVE BOUNDAY 

A raging dispute between Xaxaba community and the Wildlife Department over Moremi Game Reserve boundary this week reached the Maun Administrative Authority as the area councillor demanded answers from government.

Two years ago the community dared the Wildlife and National Parks department to come show them the boundary line on the western side of Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta or be sued for nuisance, brutality and harassment of community members.

The conflict was sparked by an incident in 2019 when some residents of Xaxaba were assaulted and their properties confiscated and destroyed by the Department of Wildlife officers as penalty for fishing and cutting grass in Gubanare.

The residents insisted that Gubanare was not inside the game reserve as the officers had alleged.

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This week during the ongoing sub council meeting in Maun, the Wildlife Department finally responded to the boundary query, which for a long time the area councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo had demanded an answer to.

“On July, 30th, 2021 we identified the Gubanare point. There was no beacon present, but the coordinates pointed us to an area where there were some markings on a tree around the area where the boundary beacon was supposed to be. We suspect that the beacon might have been removed as there was evidence of human activity around the area as we saw some pieces of corrugated irons, hose pipes and other stuff,” explained the department in a report presented to the council.

Further the report explained that on the 15th of this month, August 2021, the department informed community leadership that Moremi Game Reserve has been gazetted and made them aware of the said boundaries.

“The absence of a beacon does not mean that there is no boundary at that point as the coordinates pointed to that location hence a new beacon was also constructed there,” added the report.

The department however noted that the community was not in total agreement with them in terms of the boundary, as “they believe that part of their land was incorporated into Moremi Game Reserve without their consultation and they had indicated that they will pursue the issue further.

Indeed their council representative, Motlaleselelo of Bojanala ward expressed the dissatisfaction with the report.

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”I am not really convinced that the people were arrested inside the reserve. The report was inconclusive. They showed the people the said coordinates but a point is not a boundary, it doesn’t show which way the boundary goes from that point,” Motlaleselo argued

What made Motlaleselelo even more suspicious was that the coordinates given in the report did not match those indicated in the Wildlife and National Parks act.

Although Chief Tsholofelo of DWNP tried to explain that sometimes it happens that coordinates can slightly differ with the ones in question falling within fifty-metre radius of each other, the councillor was not convinced.

“They alluded to beacons which were never there in the first place and that is why they couldn’t find them. They are trying by all means to incorporate the place of incidence within the Game Reserve so as to save the department from possible litigation and damages that may arise from therein.”

The new boundaries are said to have been marked in 1992 without consultation with the Xaxaba community and the people have insisted that they only know of the boundaries created around 1987/89 when the park was extended.

“My fear is that more people are going to be arrested because the boundary is not clear,” Motlaleselelo emphasized

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But why is Gubanare so important to Xaxaba community and what does the new boundary mean to them?

“It means there is no where else these people would go to harvest natural resources because this was the only area which was not under any lease,” explained Motlaleselelo.

Xaxaba is within NG27B, which already has big lodges leased to operate in and for community to try harvest within this concession would be trespassing.

Near Xaxaba are NG 32, which is a Trust concession and NG 30, which is equally under a private lease

The extension according to the councillor would without doubt complicate lives of Xaxaba community.

“I will be taking this report back to the people who sent me because they are the ones to map a way forward, but there are two options; they could either escalate this to Member of Parliament’s office because he can engage the minister directly so that the minister sends a delegation to sort this matter out or the community can explore the legal route,” said Motlaleselelo.

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COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE: Motlaleselelo

What makes Motlaleselelo even more suspicious is that the coordinates given in the report do not match those written in the wildlife and national parks act.

Although Chief Tsholofelo of DWNP tried to explain that sometimes it happens that coordinates can slightly differ with the ones in question falling within fifty metre radius of each other, the councillor only smells a rat.

“They created beacons which were never there in the first place and that is why they couldn’t find them. They are trying by all means to incorporate the place of incidence within the reserve so as to save the department from possible litigation and damages that may arise from therein.”

The new boundaries are said to have been done in 1992 without consultation of Xaxaba community and the people insist they only know of the boundaries created around 1987/89 when the park was extended.

“My fear is that more people are going to be arrested because the boundary is not clear,” Motlaleselelo added.

But why is Gubanare so important to Xaxaba community and what does the new boundary mean to them?

“It means there is no where else these people would go to harvest natural resources because this was the only area which was not under any lease,” explained Motlaleselelo.

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Xaxaba is within NG27B which already has big lodges leased to operate in and for community to try harvest within this concession, it will create conflict with those holding leases.

Near Xaxaba are NG 32 which is a Trust concession and NG 30 which is equally leased.

The extension according to the councillor will without doubt complicate lives of Xaxaba community.

“I will be taking this report back to the people because they sent me and they are the once to map a way forward, but there are two options, either they elevate this to Member of Parliament’s office because he can engage the minister directly. The minister can send a delegation and engage among others those who were involved in the extension and sort this matter out or the community can explore the legal route,” added Motlaleselelo.

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