Drama as Honey Guide/OKMCT rivalry sours further
Maun Police Station was a hive of activity last Wednesday as the police rounded-up several Ditshiping residents accused of disruptive behavior at the village’s boat station – a popular destination with tourists.
In total, three off-road police vans were needed to transport the villagers to the station, an eye-opening sight as the convey arrived in a cloud of dust, under heavy escort of armed officers and Special Support Group (SSG).
In a brief interview with The Voice, North West District Commissioner, Thabang Waloka, confirmed he asked police to intervene after community members acted in ‘a lawless manner’ by preventing tourists from using mekoro.
“As you are aware, Ditshiping village is divided in terms of the running of its resources: there is Honey Guide and on the other side there is OKMCT. This morning, when OKMCT brought in tourists so that polers can take them on a ride along the river in the traditional canoe, some of the residents stopped them. They acted violently in front of the tourists, some were holding spears while some were shouting unprintable vulgar language; it was utter lawlessness hence we had to call the police,” explained Waloka.
Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (OKMCT) and Honey Guide Adventure Trust (HGAT) are embroiled in a bitter, long-running feud in the village, located some 65km from Maun and boasting a population of 366.
The conflict dates back to 2015, when 52 Ditshiping locals approached court, requesting to break away from OKMCT, which at the time was entrusted with running the village, as well as five other NG 32 settlements: Boro, Daunara, Xaxaba, Quxau and Morutsha.
In November 2021, the 52 got their wish and Lobatse High Court ordered Ditshiping be removed from OKMCT’s care and handed over to HGAT, instructing the two Trusts to hold a debatum to finalise the separation.
Nearly two years later and this is yet to happen, with OKMCT taking the legal route earlier this year, arguing that 73 Ditshiping residents wanted to rejoin them – at the time it was a move that prompted Maun High Court Judge, Bugalo Maripe, to famously describe Ditshiping as ‘a village at war with itself’.
It seems the ‘war’ is far from reaching a ceasefire.
Waloka explained that while the OKMCT-HGAT fall-out rages on, residents complained of having no source of income since tourists were no longer coming in.
“People were complaining of hunger so in the meantime I allowed OKMCT to take bookings from tourists and to take them to Ditshiping so that polers, regardless of whatever Trust they are in, can generate income,” he stressed, adding he took the decision as OKMCT is licensed to carry out tourism activities in the area whilst HGAT is not.
However, HGAT members accused Waloka of opening a can of worms and deliberately provoking them.
One, Tomeletso Oja told The Voice the Ditshiping community have agreed not to take tourists who booked through OKMCT for activities in their village.
Although he admitted villagers ‘gathered’ at the boat station, he insisted there was never any danger of the confrontation turning violent.
“The government says we are selfish for wanting to run our resources the way we want,” argued Oja.
In the end, after being questioned by the police, the residents were all allowed to go home later that evening; seven were charged with common nuisance.
Not in the mood to go into detail, Maun Station Commander, Dennis Zilawe said simply, “At the conclusion of investigations, the matter will be forwarded to Directorate of Public Prosecution to give guidance on whether to take the matter to court or not.”