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BDP re-writes script on tautona lodge-Okavango Delta land acquisition

In the face of public outcry concerning the attainment of land by Botswana government in the Okavango Delta and Tautona Lodge in Gantsi area , the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership descended in Maun last week Tuesday to explain themselves to fellow democrats who have been finding it hard to defend the controversial acquisitions.

In a closed meeting held at Maun Lodge, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, accompanied by vice president and BDP chairperson; Slumber Tsogwane, together with some members of the executive met North West regional committee and branch committees of Maun West and East to clarify the contentious issue,which is obviously going to be among campaign topics for next general elections in 2024.

Confirming the meeting, regional chairperson, Reaboka Mbulawa explained that, “It was a closed meeting so what we discussed was internal.”

Nonetheless he revealed that Masisi explained the need for Government to acquire land in the Delta and Gantsi that is inclusive of Tautona Lodge.

“After the explanation I understood where he was coming from. First for the Gantsi land we know that there are farms surrounding the township and there is no much space for expansion and development and at the same time farmers in that area are busy selling the land to their rich friends from across borders. They are selling those farms around P50 million or so and before we know it all the land will be bought,” explained Mbulawa before adding that, “with Tautona Lodge also likely to be sold, the government thought it necessary to buy and secure it for future developments and extension of the village because it sits on a big piece of property. For instance an Agriculture and research college can be built there, a police station, security intelligence facilities among others, but the important thing was to buy the land now while we can, before we completely lose it,”said Mbulawa

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He in fact likened the Gantsi land to Gerald Estate in Francistown, which is hindering the second city from expanding due to private farms surrounding the area. In Gantsi allegedly white farmers, especially from South Africa are said to be gradually buying farms around the township.

In May this year the government under direct purchase, bought Tautona Lodge at a whooping P58 million and the purchase was only revealed to the public following a Parliamentary question by opposition parties.

The public expressed displeasure more so that the lodge belonged to a BDP member, Christian De Graaf who is a former cabinet minister and former Gantsi member of Parliament.

Another issue discussed at the meeting was in relation to acquisition of land in the Delta by government despite disapproval by North West District council prior to that.

When notified about the application for the land, the council which is under the country’s main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), leadership, stood against the idea and demanded to be told the reason for application.

The answer given was that it was for security reasons related to tourism and wildlife protection.

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A few weeks later in parliament, the minister responsible for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Adminsitration, Kabo Morwaeng answered it differently and said the land in Okavango Delta will be used for president’s VIP visitors.

Asked how the president had explained it to democrats in their closed meeting, Mbulawa said that the explanation they got was similar to the explanation Morwaeng gave in Parliament.

“Security reasons are classified information, but even myself, I have personally explained to fellow democrats that look, Islamic fighters have indicated that they will “visit” each country taking part in Mozambique peace keeping mission and our troops are in Mozambique right now.”

Mbulawa maintained that some missions are important but at the same time the country has to always be prepared and ready and have evacuation and safe places to keep its international delegation, “So it is all about security,” he said.

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