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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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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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