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The Elephant Question: Is culling the answer?

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.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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