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.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.