The Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Kabelo Senyatso, had by presstime, not responded to questions about what motivated the scope of an EOI that purports to foster participation of indigenous Batswana in the country’s lucrative tourism sector, especially the requirement of existing licences that straightaway contradicts any stated notion of economic empowerment of the marginalised.
In the wake of the Expression of Interest issued by DWNP recently, the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) and a group of concerned youths with interest in tourism have formally stated their opposition to the government’s decision to allocate eight sites inside the Chobe National Park with the capacity of 400 rooms combined.
HATAB believes that Chobe National Park is already experiencing significant environmental pressure and congestion. On the other hand, the concerned youths consider the EOI discriminatory and say it is designed to accommodate players who already operate in the tourism industry and closes out young people looking for opportunities in tourism.
The Business Weekly & Review has seen a letter from then concerned youths to Dr Senyatso as a formal complaint about the recently advertised lease of tourism plots inside Chobe National Park. The letter is signed by Othusitse Ranko, a director at Eco-Tours.
It points Dr Senyatso to Section 6 (d and e) of the Wildlife and National parks Act of 1992 that provides for economic opportunities for investment in hospitality enterprises and related activities by individuals and companies, which it says is contradicted by the EOI.
“We note with concern and dismay that the scope for the leasing of the said tourism plots requires that companies should have tourism licenses from the Department of Tourism which have been in existence for at least the past two years and in the case of consortiums, they should have at least one company which has a tourism licence that has been in existence for two years or more,” the letter says.
It notes that interpretation of this by the youth concerned is that “only” existing companies in tourism qualify to respond to the EOI. A salient point in the letter is that the EOI is discriminatory to individuals and companies, especially the youth, who do not own and/or operate existing tourism businesses and therefore have no tourism licences.
“We view the above with suspicion that it serves to empower certain already existing businesses that already have a stake in the tourism sector against startups that need such a golden opportunity to enter the lucrative tourism market,” the letter also calls on Dr Senyatso to revisit the scope in order to make it more inclusive. “It is our considered view that this backdrop is against President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s promise that: “His government intends giving ordinary equal opportunities in the tourism sector as they are currently excluded (sic).”
Dr Senyatso has so far not responded to The Business Weekly & Review questions about what motivated the scope of the EOI, especially the requirement of existing licences that straightaway defeats any notion of empowering the marginalised. Meanwhile, HATAB is also against allocating any more plots for development inside the Chobe National Park, although its concern is primarily about the environmental degradation that is likely to result from increased ‘invasion’ of the pristine reserve by humans.
According to the EOI, each of the proposed lodge sites will be three hectares in extent and are to be situated two kilometres apart between the Ihaha Wildlife Camp and Kasika inside the park. “The Chobe National Park is already experiencing significant environmental pressure and congestion,” HATAB has said in a statement signed by the CEO of the organisation, Lilly Rakorong.
“This has been recognised since the early 1990s with the publication of the 1993 Chobe National Park Management Plan, and more recently the 2000 Chobe National Park Management Plan, both of which were gazetted and stipulated that no new lodges should be developed within Chobe National Park.”
The organisation says is it perturbed that this will have “a very significant impact” on the Chobe National Park riverfront by, among other things, increasing congestion, increasing environmental pollution, restricting animal movement and placing increased pressure on already threatened species such as the Chobe bushbuck, especially so during the construction period of the proposed lodges.
While the EOI calls on interested parties to provide information on waste management, pollutants, deforestation, human-wildlife conflict, HATAB says it sets no parameters or conditions for environmental management practices. “Eight lodges in such close proximity will have a substantial environmental impact, especially in relation to pollution caused by refuse and human waste,” it says in its statement. “Additionally, the time allocated for the preparation and submission of the tenders is too short for the inclusion of all the necessary submissions such as the Environmental Impact Assessment as an example.”
HATAB says while it “wholeheartedly” supports citizen economic empowerment, a broad-spectrum consultative process and a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment must be undertaken prior to allocation of any site for development in the Chobe National Park. “We also note that there are potential areas of development in a managed way in other areas of the Chobe region that can be considered,” it notes. “The jewel of Botswana requires protection and thus we encourage our government, developmental and environmental partners to protect our parks for the benefit of our posterity. “