The enemy within

KHWAI SIGN POST

Self sabotage slows down development in Khwai

On Thursday last week, newly appointed North West District Commissioner, Thabang Waloka visited some settlements within the district including Khwai and Mababe.

The intention he said was to greet and exchange pleasantries with these communities as they will be under his care from now onwards.

Of particular interest to Okavango Voice were matters surrounding the village developments, land allocation and the village’s development Trust, especially in Khwai.

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For years now, this small settlement located right in the heart of Okavango Delta, North of Moremi Game Reserve and South of Chobe National park remains underdeveloped and lacking basic resources despite them being in charge of a multi million Pula worth entity in Khwai Development Trust.

For years members of this community have been at each other’s throat over alleged misuse of Trust resources and funds running into Millions of Pula.

“For the past 22 years since government leased this land to us so we can run it and benefit from its natural resources, we have never had much to show for it, instead all we do is hit each other with fists. The way I see it, we will keep fighting until the government takes back the lease from us,” said one of the village elders, Brown Year.

Before 2000, Khwai was said to be a very peaceful community, which was regularly given hunting licenses by government.

However in the interest of ecotourism the community agreed to surrender their licence in exchange of a community development Trust, which was to run and manage a huge chunk of wildlife protected area called NG 19 which includes their village.

Commenting during the kgotla meeting, kgotla who is a former board member of the Trust added that sometime in 2016, Botswana government gave the Trust free access to the account which then had a balance of P7million, “ In 2018/19 it was left with only P1 million balance.

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Most of the money was spent on court litigations, nobody used that money for personal benefits!” added Yarae.

Yarae was part of the board that was ousted through a motion of no confidence five months ago with community citing maladministration and office abuse as a reason to boot them out. Each board has a three- year term.

The recent tension in Khwai came to the fore in May during a heated kgotla meeting that saw a new board being ushered in.

However just before the dust could settle, it appears the community is still very much divided with some walking wounded, including Thoromo Motlhala, a blind elder whose outburst last week opened yet another heated exchange which caused the D.C to call everyone to order.

“Is there anyone here who owns Khwai? If so they should raise their hands, I cannot see but those around me will do that for me. I am asking this question because you see D.C, there are people who are causing confusion in this village. There is an ailment among us, of selfishness, when they see other families running the Trust, they accuse them of misdeeds and plot to oust them, but today I want to know what our children stole from the Trust for them to be ousted like that! Where is the audit to prove that?” Yarae lashed out, shaking with visible rage.

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Nonetheless another elder, Joseph Sango who stood to comment after Yarae was helped out of the kgotla after he screamed, “I am Khwai.”

Sango who boasted of owning stretches of land in Khwai added that the lack of development for the village is mainly due to misuse of Trust funds.

Meanwhile the ousted Trust’s chairperson, Jonah Amos-Motlhala said kgotla meetings at Khwai are always charecterised by highly charged emotions partly because the DC officers sent to arbitrate on Trust matters are failing the community and often exacerbate differences instead.

“The TAC (Technical Advisory committee) is only interested in our internal conflicts relating to Trust funds, when it comes to development they are slow to assist us, yet this is their core mandate, to help and guide us in terms of development,” said Amos.

He cited the Trust offices which they have long donated to government so they can be developed into a clinic, as one area which the TAC should have long facilitated and pushed for as that would have so far saved lives and created some revenue for the Trust.

Founded in April 2000, the Trust play an active role in sustainable use of natural resources and through monies obtained from tourism activities and leasing out campsites to big safari companies, each household in Khwai benefits.

Some of the benefits include annual dividends to Khwai residents.

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The trust further pays their pensioners P600 a month, builds houses to destitute and assists in day to day arising matters including transporting the sick and expectant mothers to and from the nearest clinic on a 123- kilometer bumpy gravel road only accessible by 4×4 vehicles among other benefits.

“The clinic will go a long way in saving lives and costs for the Trust whose vehicles are always running between Khwai, Shorobe and Maun would be reduced,” said current Trust chairperson, Ronald Ntsogotlho as he buttressed Amos’ submissions.

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