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.
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.