- Saleshando’s motion motivated by environmental concerns
- MPs accuse him of being a lackey of white interests
A motion to review a controversial Expression of Interest for development of eight lodges inside Chobe National Park was defeated in Parliament last week.
In the wake of the EOI recently that was issued by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) last month, the MP for Okavango Kenny Kapinga joined growing calls for the government to review the contents of the EOI that have been widely criticised for posing a threat to the eco-system of the park and discriminating against Batswana while purporting to promote citizen participation.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Kapinga accused the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of ignoring scientific and professional advice because it wants to use the EOI to push its political interests under the pretext of empowering Batswana.
He was debating an urgent motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando for the plan to be reconsidered for strict adherence to the existing Chobe Management Plan of 2021 and the Chobe River Front Decongestion Strategy, as well as for the benefit of fair play and transparency.
Referring to the plan as a typical BEE mentality where beneficiaries have already been identified, Kapinga said environment minister Philda Kereng was going against scientific evidence that construction of lodges inside the park will cause congestion on the Chobe riverfront, and that disruption of animal movement will affect the attractiveness of the place.
BEE refers to South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment that is notorious for manipulation by powerful forces in that country’s political and business class. Kapinga said no proper consultation with players in the Chobe tourism industry, especially small tour operators, was done.
But the MP for Chobe, Ronald Shamukuni, did not support the motion, saying the park is a large size to accommodate more than eight lodge sites. He argued that congestion in the park was caused by a non-diversified product base where activities are limited to game drives and boat cruises and called for more activities to reduce attention on the riverfront.
The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) is a part the growing swell of opposition to more developments inside the park, it supports citizen economic empowerment but building eight lodges on the Chobe riverfront would increase congestion and environmental pollution. HATAB, which represents 50 percent of all licensed hospitality and tourism operators in Botswana, has called for a broad-spectrum consultative process and a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be undertaken before any site can be allocated for development in the park.
The ministry had invited 100 percent citizen owned businesses and consortiums with licences going back at least two years to submit expressions of interest for eight new tourism sites measuring three hectares along the Chobe riverfront. The facilities are to have a maximum of 50 rooms and a maximum of 75 beds each.
In the course of debating the motion, some legislators accused Saleshando, who is the MP for Maun West, of being a lackey of prominent white tourism operators opposed to the EOI. In the end, the motion failed when 37 MPs, mostly of the ruling BDP, voted against it and only 16 voted with Saleshando for it. There were no abstentions but 10 MPs were absent from the House at the time of voting.