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Elephant incursion and the State House joke

A certain old man at Batawana main Kgotla once joked that he prays that one day the elephants destroy the state house so that government begin to take the problem of the high elephant population in Botswana seriously.

The elephant issue is one of the highly divisible conservation topics for communities that share boundaries or live side by side with wildlife. In 2015, Okavango Research Institute Professor of tourism studies, Joseph Mbaiwa made a power point presentation during Botswana symposium on Wetlands and Wildlife at Maun Lodge which was titled, Environmental Threats to the Okavango Delta and Mitigation Measures.

One of the presentation’s slides described communities’ response to the elephant’s incursion at various villages in Botswana. At Khumaga, a 91 year old man noted: “since that devil called elephant came to our land no one has ever harvested here in Khumaga…we are dying of hunger because of elephants crop raiding, we have grown without that creature on our land since it came we are always on fear and scared of walking on our own land”.

At Gudigwa, an old lady remarked: “we plough, elephants harvest.” Another 36 year old woman at Kumaga noted, “How can I like something that is not created by God. God cannot create something of that kind. Elephant was made by Satan.  According to Great Elephant Census (GEC) undertaken by Mike Chase of Elephant Without Boarders, Botswana is home to roughly 130,000 elephants. This figure represents a third of Africa’s entire elephant population.

The survey of Elephant populations in 18 countries found that compared with historic data, elephants population decreased by an estimated 144,000 from 2007 to 2014. Populations are currently shrinking by 8% per year continent-wide, primarily due to poaching. The study observed that African elephants in nearby countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia are migrating to Botswana where there are stringent wildlife policies.

In a previous interview, Tshekedi Khama, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, conservation and tourism, has accused some South African Development Community countries of failing to meet their obligations for the establishment of Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Park (KAZA.) Khama accused neighbors of failing to fulfill their obligations in the development of KAZA, which is a regional initiative meant to promote the free cross-border movement and conservation of wildlife in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.

“We have some partners, like Zambia and Zimbabwe, who fail to pay their subscriptions and putting up requisite infrastructure for essential services, such as water, in their countries. That results in many elephants crossing into Botswana because we have those provisions. Our neighbors need to drill boreholes and provide water to stop their animals from coming to Botswana,” Khama said.

 KAZA is aimed at safeguarding free movement on animals in the five countries, but Khama says he is worried that some of the partner countries have still not finalised their land use plans to convert some lands in to wildlife areas. “As Botswana our land use is ready. We have the Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve which are already demarcated as conservation areas. However our neighbors have a different land use in areas to become part of the park. They are taking long to finalise the conversion.” he stated

Khama further bemoaned that Botswana is under extraordinary pressure from the pro-hunting lobby in the European Union and regional neighbours to lift the hunting ban imposed in 2014. He stated: “Botswana remains resolute in supporting the ending of the ivory trade. We have stopped hunting (since 2014), but our neighbors still undertake trophy hunting and practice captive animal breeding.


“Our policy against wildlife hunting is working, that is why wildlife is relocating from neighboring countries to Botswana. But now, the pro-hunters want to follow the wildlife here. As Botswana, we supported the ending of the ivory trade because we believe that getting rid of the trade will wipe out the markets too.”

However a massive opposition from communities has emerged as elephants begin to spread throughout Botswana. Another concern has surfaced of elephants attacking and killing humans. Last week, British national, Irene Sunagan (57), was attacked and killed by an elephant in Boro area.  

Dr Comfort Nkgowe, wildlife principal veterinary officer in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks this week told the media that the deceased and her 67-year old partner, Lawrence Murtosh were attacked outside their camp site in Boro. The surviving told the authorities that prior to the incident, the elephant had invaded their yard, which is situated along a river bank, but they managed to chase it away with their vehicle. A protective trench has been dug around the yard, save for the entrance portion.

Thinking that the elephant had gone the couple took their dogs out for a walk. To their surprise, the elephant charged on them, the husband ran away but the deceased was not that lucky as she was attacked by the giant mammal. Sunagan sustained serious injuries and was pronounced dead upon arrival at Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun.

Last week, Superintendent Goitsemodimo Molapise of Shakawe Police Station further expressed concern about escalating cases of animal attacks in the Okavango sub district. Molapise said in the first police quarter January- march, there had been four incidents leading to deaths and one survival. He said in the same quarter last year, no cases were reported.

Another police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said they have been instructed not to divulge the true extent of deaths caused by elephants as government fear this is sensitive information. In an interview, Professor Mbaiwa blamed the rising cases of human-elephant conflicts to the 2011 hunting ban. Mbaiwa said when hunting was still on in Botswana; elephants were not a problem as it is the case.

Mbaiwa suggested for the introduction of selected hunting targeting the elephants before the situation goes out of control. This view was supported by Keakgametse Katisi, Chairman of Nokaneng Community Trust who said elephants are a danger to members of the public if they are not hunted to stop their encroachment.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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