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.
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.
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.
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.