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Guma takes aim at Tshekedi, Kgathi

Tati East legislator Samson Moyo Guma who is also a member of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) has lambasted Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama  together with Defence Justice and Security minister Shaw Kgathi  over laxness in dealing with Zimbabwe government in fighting the Foot and Mouth (FMD) scourge.

The infuriated legislator spewed venom at the appearance of Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security at before PAC this week. His gripe with the duo emanates from the bilateral agreement between government of Zimbabwe and Botswana that should local cattle cross to the Zimbabwe side; they must be shot while Zimbabwe cattle should be returned home if they cross into Botswana.

This, he said, contributes to the continuous spread of the Foot and Mouth disease which threatens the local economy, the beef sector to be precise. He said if this is a serious national issue like the Permanent Secretary at the ministry Jimmy Opelo put it, then ministers involved should move out of the comfort of offices and show commitment.

“Kgathi [Shaw] does not see the urgency in dealing with this matter but it starts from his constituency [Bobirwa] up to Matsiloje. Minister of Environment [Tshekedi Khama] is also dragging his feet, same thing with the minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia,” Guma said. “I continue, there is no commitment from government including you officers. Your ministers find it difficult to come there and appreciate issues first hand. It is like re ba kolota botshelo. They should get out of the offices and go there. Maybe you should go and tell HE [President Mokgweetsi Masisi] about this,” Guma said to the quiet house.

The main reason Guma dragged the two ministers into the issue is the fact that the FMD matter is related to the two ministers. Soldiers under Kgathi are expected to guard and patrol the borders but they are failing because of elephants. On the other hand, the matter also borders on tourism issues as elephants are ravaging the fence erected to stop movements of cattle to and from Zimbabwe, something which Guma expects minister Khama to address.

It is said elephants wander this country in search of water and in process demolishing the fence which then makes it easy for cattle to follow over for grazing and water. Opelo together with Director of Veterinary Services Letlhogile Modisa had a torrid time in responding to Guma’s enquiries.

“We should admit honorable member that there is no coordination between the ministries but we have started to collaborate in coming up with holistic approach. We have already met with our counterparts from ministry of environment two months back but we are yet to draft a guiding plan,” said Opelo. Modisa also emphasised the need for a collective effort in dealing with the issue.  “This is a big problem we should admit and it needs collective responsibility with concerted efforts.”

BMC MONOPOLY NEARS END

Still at the session it was revealed that Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has parted ways with CEO Dr Akolang Tombale. As it is, the ministry is awaiting conclusive recommendations as to who should now head the parastatal. PAC member Ndaba Gaolathe also asked about the liberalisation of the beef industry as it is now the trend in other countries.

“For now I would not have a direct answer but we have documents agreeing with you. Liberalisation will come, but I wouldn’t say when. We are only awaiting one component if unlocked all others will go-amendment of legislation hopefully in the next sitting of parliament,” said Opelo. It was revealed that presently, BMC is not financially sound despite the government’s decision to turn their loan into equity. On other abattoirs, the cabinet has issued a directive that the Maun abattoir and Francistown be ran by government while Lobatse abattoir will operate independently alone.

MILLIONS SPENT ON ISPAAAD 

Efforts by the ministry to determine the cost benefit analysis of Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD) has failed following the contractual dispute with the consultant awarded the work. Opelo could not furnish the PAC with the amount spent by far on the programme.

“We had the intention to do the cost benefit analysis but we had disputes with the consultants at inception stage and as per the advice from the Attorney General we were told to set aside the case as millions if not billions have already spent on the programme,” he responded to the question posed by Gaolathe.

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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 Développement (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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