As calls for measured slaughter of elephants to control their rising numbers gains momentum under President Mokgweetsi Masisi, there are fears that this could pose a threat in the mould of international campaigns against Botswana.
Botswana finds herself between a rock and a hard surface to appease its population who face the wrath of elephants’ damage and the international elephant conservation protagonists. This year Botswana saw a peaceful change of presidency from Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was seen as being more into wildlife conservation as compared to the cattle agriculture fanatic, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Cattle farmers in Ngamiland and other wildlife areas are already lobbying Masisi to get rid of Khama’s pro wildlife policies that disadvantage agriculture and they emphasise the need to introduce the culling of elephants. During Khama’s leadership, Botswana adopted a hard conservation stance even differing with SADC neighbours on the ivory trade. Khama’s government imposed a moratorium on elephant hunting safaris in 2014 a move that resulted in elephants increasing their range outside national parks and game reserves and encroaching into farming areas. The conflict between human and elephants has escalated since the hunting moratorium.
In another instance of Khama’s hairline stance in 2016, SADC countries called for the removal of elephants from being listed on Appendix 1 (which afforded them highest form of protection and disallowed trade in elephant products) to Appendix 2 which will enable ivory sale. However, Khama broke ranks with SADC and supported remainder of elephants in appendix 1 something that outlawed their hunting and sale of their products.
However since ascending to power, Masisi has realised that he inherited a mammoth task hence the need to renew the fortunes of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been in power since the country gained independence in 1966. During 2014 elections, BDP’s share of popular vote fell below 50 percent for the first time since 1966. An opposition coalition of the Umbrella for Democratic Change has taken land issues in wildlife areas of Ngamiland and Chobe as campaign topics.
Already Masisi’s government has indicated plans to roll back the elephant hunting imposed as part of the 2014 hunting moratorium. Recently parliament approved a motion by Maun East Konstantinos Markus for the reintroduction of hunting outside protected areas in an effort to minimise elephants- human conflicts. Sensing new hope communities are calling for a reduction in elephants numbers through culling.
Dr Mike Chase of Elephant without Boarders has however argued that contrary to popular belief, Botswana’s elephant population is not increasing. He said: “Many people assume that an increase in the number of conflicts between elephants and humans is automatically due to an increasing elephant population. Increases in human-elephant conflict outside the ‘traditional elephant range’ are more closely associated with increases in human population densities than elephant population growth.”
Recently, representatives of Ngamiland communities called for the introduction of elephant culling to manage the ever-growing and seemingly uncontrollable elephant population in Botswana. They made a call at a stakeholder meeting held at Maun Lodge Maun convened to consult communities on the introduction of the National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP.)
Speaking during the meeting, Shakawe Kgosi, Kea Lempadi said more than 10 people in Shakawe have been killed by elephants in 2018. Bashei Masalela from Phuduhudu village said their village which is located within parks is facing a problem of elephants killing and maiming people as well as damage to farm infrastructure and ploughing fields. She reiterated that there is a need for elephants culling. Scores of farmers used the meeting to call for elephants culling with some suggesting that government should allow elephants to be killed for free meat while some called for the use of elephants in agricultural activities such as providing drought power.
Information reaching this publication is that government is seriously considering culling elephants something anticipated to garner massive international protests. Fears are that, Botswana may face the brunt of international animal rights champions who may target Botswana’s tourism and diamond mining sectors.
Trophy hunting lobbyist, Debbie Peake in an interview, sent a warning about elephants culling. “If we are to do culling it needs to be done by professionals and in collaboration with the professional hunting sector. We can not have the army being the one doing it otherwise we will face the wrath of the international conservation groups. They could go mad on us as a country.”
Peake opined that the biggest problem is that since elephants hunting stoppage, communities have stopped getting financial incentives from the elephants. She said however, the reintroduction of the hunting Safari can help in providing those incentives to the communities something that may help in mooting wildlife-human conflicts. Peake also opines that the contributing factors of elephants’ numbers are many and they all need to be explored to find a solution.
Environmental Lawyer, Dr Oduetse Koboto told Weekendpost that culling is an internationally accepted conservation tool. Dr Koboto however revealed that for culling to happen it should be guided by assessments on Botswana’s elephant carrying capacity and vegetation assessments to tell if the elephants’ numbers are indeed a threat to other biodiversity and livelihoods. He said there are other options which could be explored to manage elephants besides culling.
Dr Koboto said from a legal perspective, there is a need to transform the Community Based Natural Resources Programme Policy in to an Act. “We need a legal interpretation of what is CBNRM and what benefits are communities entitled to, to promote conservation and avoid community backlash.” Dr Koboto reiterated that the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area treaty affords Botswana a chance to work with its neighbours to find a cross boarder solution to the elephants’ numbers.
Botswana introduce National Elephant Management Plan
It emerged during the Maun Lodge consultative meeting that Botswana’s last elephants’ management plan of 1991 had a target to maintain the elephant numbers at 54,000 nationally. However, the latest figures by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks put the elephants population at 207,000, way beyond Botswana’s carrying capacity. Botswana’s elephant number is however conflicting as 2014 wildlife survey by local conservation group, Elephants Without Borders put elephants numbers at 150,000, nationally.
Speaking in that meeting, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Felix Monggae said government has decided to come up with actions that are needed to protect, manage, and monitor elephants and also to provide a detailed national level plan for elephant management.
“This series of consultative workshops which will be held over the course of August will bring together different stakeholders including Dikgosi, members of parliament, councillors, village extension teams, women, youth, civil societies and the private sector.” He added that the outcome of the planning process will produce a comprehensive elephant action plan which addresses the aspirations of all stakeholders and assures the conservation of the African elephant.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.
The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.
The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.
Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.
The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).
Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.
Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors. Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.
Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.
In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.
The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.
The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.