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Mbulawa supports communities claim over tourism land

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate for Maun West constituency, Reaboka Mbulawa has thrown his weight behind Maun communities’ claims over portions of tourism lands in Okavango Delta and Maun.

The Maun community is currently seeking to get the control of Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park from government. Recently the issue was brought before President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Addressing a political rally in Maun recently, Mbulawa who will face Botswana Congress Party leader Dumelang Saleshando said he is in support of the communities claim over the prime portions of lands.

Mbulawa further told the rally that he has been engaging with Kgosi Tawana Moremi and his regiment Matsaakgang on issues relating to Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park (MEP).  He said he has advised Batawana to revive their trust, Ngamiland Fauna Conservation Society.

Speaking in a follow-up interview, Mbulawa who opposed Kgosi Moremi in 2014 elections adding that contrary to believe he always supported the community claim over the tourism lands. However he stated that his only difference is that he believes the issue should be addressed through a partnership with North West District Council.

“Though the Maun trust the community should approach NWDC for partnership. Then, they can approach the Ministry of Environment, and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism and ask to be allocated the ownership of Maun Educational Park.” Mbulawa said if the project is done in partnership with NWDC this will address suspicions that it will only benefit a select few.

Mbulawa said the Maun Educational Park is prime land adding that the late Paul Allen, Allen who owned the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks once wanted to invest $ 2 billion (about 21 billion pula) in building a six star tourism facility in the area which however failed because of community feud over the parks ownership.

Mbulawa explained that government must pass policies to empower Batswana in the tourism sector. He said one way to do that is by reserving land under tourism land bank exclusively for Batswana. Mbulawa stated: “Personally, I suffered heavily trying to penetrate the safari tourism market.  I have incurred a lot of losses along the way. The foreign owned tourism companies in Botswana work as a web.

They can close you out. A lot of Batswana businesses have been sabotaged to closure.  But I think Batswana have demonstrated in other industry sectors that they have potential and I believe that when given chance Batswana can succeed in the tourism sector.”
He further went on: “Batswana companies like mine pay tax here. But government is losing a lot of money on foreign owned companies whose bank accounts are located outside. However this are companies that dominated our tourism sector.

You will be surprised that some of these big companies even pay low lease rentals compared to some of our smaller companies. There are just many bad things about the administration of our tourism sector.”  He said government must pass a law forcing all the foreign companies to pay for all Botswana reservations directly in Botswana.

Mbulawa said: “When it comes to tourism concessions there are few Batswana owning them.  Personally, I have been in the tourism industry for 16 years operating camp sites and recently acquired a Croc Camp in Maun. But I still do not have a tourism concession. I am interested in operating a tourism concession but it’s hard to get one. They are mostly dominated by foreign companies”

Mbulawa said: “Tourism is a very expensive industry. To put up a basic camp you need about P 10 Million Pula. A high end camp in the delta will cost you about P 50 million” saying with government’s support Batswana may penetrate the sector. Mbulawa stated that government must however exercise due care in empowering Batswana and avoid despising foreign owned companies as this may affect the tourism sector.    “We must learn from what happened to our neighboring countries about their radical economic reforms.

Empowerment of citizen is not an event but a process. We have to be careful because tourism is a sensitive sector. ” Mbulawa further clarified his contentious statement that North West District Council (NWDC) has built cattle kraals at a cost of 2 Million pula.
Speaking during a recent political rally in Maun, Mbulawa stated that under his chairmanship, NWDC built kraals at tune of P2 million. The issue soon trended on social media with many commentators describing it as false propaganda.  

But Mbulawa came in support of his statement. “Yes it is true. All those kraals cost the council P 2 million.  The project also included construction of enclosures for pigs, dogs and other stray animals. It also included water and electricity connections and labour costs.” Mbulawa said it is worrying that the Maun is inundated with many stray cattle when there is a project and by-laws in place to address that.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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