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Friday, 19 April 2024

Poachers turn Okavango Delta into Elephants graveyard

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The Okavango Delta has been turned in to an elephants’ graveyard as poachers open their vengeance on the large mammals along the wetlands. It is not only elephants that are under threat, it is also becoming increasingly clear that poachers are eyeing the recovering population of rhinos in the Okavanago Delta.

However there are allegations that government maybe deliberately under reporting the exten t of poaching in Botswana for the fear of affecting the local tourism sector. Heralded as a conservation success story, Botswana has in recent years received rhino donations from the Republic of South Africa where rhinos killed in large numbers by poachers. But of late there is an apparent fear that given the lax in anti poaching operations in Botswana, the country is following in to the footsteps of South Africa.

This week WeekendPost was invited by the local conservation group, Elephants Without Borders (EWB) to aerialy witness the ongoing elephants poaching horror.  From chartered Helicopter Horizons Chopper, scores of dead elephants littered the Mophane woodlands of Khwai concession.About seven elephants carcass, all with removed fronts of their heads and missing tusks were seen. Coincidentialy, all the carcasses of the seven elephants counted were all located along water ponds something that proves poachers ambush the animals when they come for drinking.  

EWB Director, Dr Mike Chase revealed that they have so far counted about 90 elephants’ carcasses in the area from Khwai to Linyanti concesions. EWB is currently undertaking the 2018 Botswana Elephants Census in collaboration with the Botswana Government. The aerial survey which is undertaken using latest technology strives to clear the confusion on how many elephants exist in Botswana for better management and policy formulation.

The survey concludes in October this year. However one of the discoveries made by Dr Chase and his team has been the big numbers of poached elephants in the Khwai area. “Elephant poaching has been ongoing for more than two years. From the carcasses we have seen today it is clear that poachers take out elephants of all ages. It’s serious but no one is doing anything about this growing problem which will affect the local tourism sector.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity during the recent Elephants Management Plan meeting at Maun Lodge, an anti poaching officer explained that poaching has escalated in Botswana since the introduction of the hunting ban in 2014. He said: “The hunting ban has created lots of problems for anti poaching operations in Botswana due to high elephants’ numbers that have taken refuge here. Poaching syndicates have now strenthened their operations in the country and we have intelligence that they have even penetrated our law enforcement agencies and the local communities.”

Tuelo Montshonyane of Machaba Safaris in an interview also attested that poaching is on the rise. However he opined that most people commiting poaching are wellknown community members known to law enforcement. He said: “Majority of poachers are wellknown. I wonder why anti poaching officers   allow them to escape with impunity.” Meanwhile a white rhino was recently gunned down in NG 32 Concession in what is suspected to be a poaching incident. The animal was shot with a heavy calibre rifle probably on August 18.

According to Botswana Police Services (BPS), the horns of the animals have been crudely removed and taken away by the unknown perpetrators but indications are that this was an opportunistic crime rather than one by organised criminals.
According to sources at BPS, three well known poaching suspects from Maun were rounded up by the law enforcement but were later released due to lack of evidence.

Ngamiland District Wildlife coordinator, Timmy Blackbeared has raised alarm that if no arrests are made this may encourage the poachers to kill more of the rhinos in the Okavango Delta. Blackbeard revealed that a P 25,000-reward has been put out for any person who helps the law enforcement with information that could lead to the arrest of culprits who killed the white rhino.

WeekendPost understands that currently the bulk of anti-poaching operations are undertaken by Botswana Defence Force in Ngamiland. However the BDF is also said to be thin on the ground due to limited resources. Information reaching this publication is that when the NG 32 rhino was killed some of the BDF anti-poaching officers based in Ngamiland were still engaged in Gantsi area where three other rhinos were killed in private properties this year for their horns.

Blackbeard however revealed that the anti poaching officers have been left in the lurch with no arms to fight the rising poaching since Botswana Defence Force and Directorate of Intelligence Services disarmed the enviroment ministry in May. “Our Anti poaching unit in Ngamiland does not have even a single rifle for its operations as all our rifles have been taken by BDF. It’s very difficult to fight poaching without assault because poachers these days are using surpressed weapons.”

Meanwhile it is not clear when government will warm-up to installing non-intrusive inspection technology like cargo scanners at veterinary gates acrosss Botswana. The veterinay gates along main highways dualy serve as seach points aganst illegal products trafficking.  Lots of wildlife products derived from Ngamiland are transported through Makalamabedi gate to neghbouring countries particularly Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, District No. 5 Commander Peter Gochela has said that police operations at Makalamabedi Veterinary gate are effective. He said: “For intelligence reasons, I cannot detail what measures we use at Makalamabedi Gate to arrest perpetrators. But we are very effective as we have made many arrests there. ”

Gochela however could not rule out that government may in future instal modern seach technologies at strategic areas saying: ‘as crime evolves the law enforment strategy also has to adapt.’ Gochela further confirmed that poaching especialy for elephants is on the rise in Ngamiland.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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