On the honey trail

Boikaego & Nketso

Ditshiping community fights for survival

Nestled between sparkling Okavango River channels and tall indigenous trees about 66 kilometres north west of Maun lies the picturesque village of Ditshiping.

It’s a small community of 366 people whose existence of struggle for a livelihood with meagre resources within the Wildlife Management area of NG 17 in the Okavango Delta dates back to 1961 when they were relocated to make way for the establishment of Moremi Game Reserve.

Eight years ago, Ditshiping, through Honey Guide Adventure Trust, launched a court case seeking permission to break away from Okavango, Kopano, Mokoro Community Trust (OKMCT) that operates the largest concession in Okavango Delta (NG 32).

Last year, in a ruling that brought happiness and hope to a community whose only source of livelihood is tourism, the court ordered that OKMCT be audited so that the two Trusts can share assets to allow Honey Guide Adventure Trust to commence operations, but OKMCT chose to defy the court order, sending the two parties back to court.

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However, the long-standing conflict is seemingly nearing an end following an intervention by newly-appointed District Commissioner, Thabang Waloka.

“What happened is Ditshiping has pulled out of OKMCT because it has its own Trust, Honey Guide which was registered before OKMCT’s existence. The court has clearly ordered OKMCT to render an amount of all its transactions for a period of 5 years, supported by proper vouchers and basically audit of OKMCT accounts from January 2016 to the date of court order which was November 2021,” explained Bojanala Councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo.

“It was important that the new D.C called all concerned parties and advised that the court order be implemented,” emphasised Motlaleselelo.

The background of the case is that in 1997, Ditshiping village established a Village Development Trust, Honey Guide, pursuant to the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and Government of Botswana Policy.

However, in 1998, the government, through North West District Council, introduced OKMCT as an umbrella Trust to include five villages in Bojanala including Ditshiping, Daunara, Morutsha, Boro and Quxau.

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Around 2014, Ditshiping community complained of mismanagement of funds at OKMCT and that the village was not benefiting meaningfully from the Trust and therefore wanted out.

The village was left divided with some for OKMCT and others in support of Honey Guide.

“We took the matter to court because we were not benefiting from OKMCT while other villages were,” explained Honey Guide Chairperson, Dimbo Boikaego.

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In fact, Boikaego is the one who led 51 others in a court case that finally achieved the separation of Ditshiping from OKMCT.

“It is true the new D.C. called all concerned parties to a meeting at Cresta–Matlapana Hotel to iron out these matters. He advised OKMCT on the importance of honouring the court order. The D.C. told them to go to Ditshiping to explain this issue but instead they called the meeting but did something else, intimidated people into thinking that they would lose their jobs from Safari companies operating within OKMCT land concession if they supported the breakaway. But they lied because those were hired in accordance with labour laws,” added Honey Guide General Manager, Nametso Nketso.

Meanwhile, the contempt of court case filed by Honey Guide Trust against OKCMT has been postponed to return to court on February 27th to allow for all information necessary for the audit to be brought forth, so that valuation of all assets and list of all contracts that OKMCT is engaged in are submitted and that all OKMCT office bearers account for their reasons why they defied the court order and failed to facilitate the audit.

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