BDF bullying worries tourism bosses

14 May 2021 | Local News

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

While government calls for calm following a spate of incidents which has seen Namibians suffering at the hands of the allegedly trigger-happy Botswana Defence Force (BDF), tourism operators fear the situation could have a catastrophic impact on the fragile tourism industry.

The latest incident happened as recently as last weekend when a group of 17 tourists were told to “f*** off” by BDF soldiers along the Chobe River in the Zambezi Region while the soldiers pointed armed military rifles at them and their two boat skippers.

The incident occurred at about 15:45 last Saturday when two boats from the Chobe Camp River Lodge took tourists out for a boat cruise to view some game. On board were seven South African tourists and 10 Namibians, together with the two skippers.

CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) Gitta Paetzold told Namibian Sun this week that the situation in Zambezi is of “grave concern”.

“Any kind of threat of force or ammunition against civilians - be they Namibian nationals or international guests - severely tarnishes Namibia's image as a safe and peaceful travel destination.”

She said ideally law enforcement officers, whether police or the military, should be seen as friends and helpers, providing safety and security, and not be seen as threatening free movement of people.

Paetzhold said since the BDF shooting incident last year, which saw four Namibians lose their lives, there is reason for concern about the safe use of the waterways, especially the Chobe River which separates Namibia and Botswana and hosts a number of popular lodges and tourism attractions on either side.

Code of conduct

“For a number of years now, the two countries have been discussing a code of conduct for the use of the Chobe River for all commercial and social purposes, including tourism, and it is of crucial importance that this process be continued and completed, also in view of the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) tourism initiative, which promises to be one of the world's greatest multinational tourism attractions.”

Paetzold said for it to be successful, a harmonious, multinational commitment to and cooperation on safe and convenient river crossings and use of the waterways is crucial.

“Operators from all countries in the region are working very closely to establish and offer a convenient and unique tourism experience for guests to that beautiful part of Africa, and we can only hope that the respective governments and leaders will see the need for a common and harmonious approach to the administration of the shared assets, such as rivers and waterways.”

No word from ministry

Meanwhile, the tourism ministry has remained mum regarding the recent confrontation between Namibian tourists and BDF soldiers.

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday said he will not comment on the incident until there is a full report on what happened on the day.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, echoed his sentiments.

Shifeta said the ministry is awaiting official reports before they make a statement.

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