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Kekgonegile slams Masisi’s over FMD combating measures

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Maun East parliamentary hopeful, Goretetse Kekgonegile has blasted President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s promise in the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA) that government is committed to the implementation of the Commodity Based Trade (CBT) in the Foot and Mouth affected areas.

CBT refers to new meat-processing value chain-based approaches including cattle quarantining which can ensure FMD derived beef is exportable to markets. Botswana and other SADC countries have adopted CBT largely seen as one of the solutions to the wildlife- cattle sector conflicts.

Masisi explained in the 2018 SONA that government in partnership with international technical partners has undertaken numerous workshops to capacitate both farmers and extension staff on the concept of CBT which provides avenue for the exportation of meat from FMD endemic areas such as Ngamiland. Masisi said CBT as adopted by Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and recognized by the World Trade Organization provides a new opportunity for the safe trade in beef and beef products for Ngamiland farmers and other FMD afflicted parts.

However, Kekgonegile stated that it is high time government walks the talk saying despite Masisi’s promise the situation on the ground is to the contrary. He said for example, DVS is lacking the budget and resources to maintain all the quarantines in Ngamiland saying if government was serious it would have made a plan and organized resources required for CBT smooth implementation.

 He said: “for CBT to work quarantines are needed but DVS has no funds to maintain them.  We cannot be talking CBT when we do not have a strategy how CBT will be implemented. Even the important stakeholders such as Botswana Meat Commission are clueless on what is their roles and expectations on CBT implementation. It’s just confusion all over the place.” Taking his argument further, Kekgonegile said BMC currently is forced to source cattle from Boteti and Bobirwa for slaughter at Maun abattoir as cattle sales in Ngamiland has come to a standstill due to CBT requirements.

“It is required that all the cattle slaughtered at Maun abattoir must be quarantined but quarantines are not yet working. This has led to a situation where cattle industry has come to a “forced stop forcing the BMC to look elsewhere. Yet government is saying the Maun abattoir will not be privatized for strategic reasons due to the Ngamiland situation but the abattoir is now useless to us.”

Kekgonegile further said: “Ngamiland is in a state of emergency as we speak. Farmers cannot sell their cattle to Maun abattoir due to the quarantines requirement. But the same government that is supposed to be fixing all the quarantines is not doing anything to organize money for the works. Only Makalamabedi quarantine has been partly maintained. Now the same government has given its company, BMC a permit to source cattle outside Ngamiland abandoning Ngamiland farmers.”  

Kekgonegile also called for the scrapping off of the provision of Diseases of Animals Act Cap 37, 01 of 1977 that gives Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) powers to destroy cattle that stray in to the buffalo fence. This position comes after DVS recently shot dead 11 cattle that had strayed in to the Makalamabedi quarantine. Farmers are up in arms against the cattle killings, describing it as criminal act by government officials.  

DVS, citing diseases act, is also accused of regular destruction of the farmers cattle that cross the buffalo fence separating communal grazing areas and Moremi Game Reserve. Responding to the recent killing of 11 cattle, Kekgonegile explained that a situation where farmers’ cattle are killed when they cross in to the buffalo fence should not be condoned as it impoverishes cattle farmers in Ngamiland.  Kekgonegile said government must appreciate that there is an ongoing land stress and other environmental problems in Ngamiland that perpetuate land conflicts.

 Kekgonegile stated that the emerging land realities in Ngamiland such as shrinking communal lands as a result of the commonage privatization has drastically shrunk land available for tribal grazing and exacerbated land use conflicts. He posits that however, instead of taking a holistic approach to this emerging tragedy of the commons, government continues to impose acts that favor the interests of wildlife over those of cattle. Kekgonegile explained that government must stop killing farmers cattle in the name of the animals act and come to a holistic solution.

“When buffaloes come in to the grazing areas they are driven back and not destroyed but the same is not accorded to cattle as they are killed when they enter the buffalo fence.” He says what make the situation worse is that the buffalo fence has been destroyed by elephants and cattle freely cross in to the other side.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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