Connect with us
Advertisement

Govt removal of Khumaga residents violates UN Statutes

The ongoing debacle between residents of Khumaga village and the government of Botswana could have far reaching effects on Botswana’s respect for human rights as government has reneged on its compensation promises.

The erection of the fence in Khumaga which will cost government P36 million will see residents losing part of their land, which they have occupied since the pre-independence era. The idea of erection of a fence was coined by government under the pretence of separating the people from wild animals.

Khumaga is adjacent to Makgadikgadi National Park, something which has seen residents involved in wildlife and human conflicts as well as engaging in tourism activities such as operating camp sites. Despite the proposition by government, that the fence is meant to benefit both the residents and government, there are suspicions that the erection of the new fence is a multi-million pula ploy by tourism magnates, including President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama, who is also Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, to advance their tourism interests.    

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, of which Botswana is a member, outlines principles to be pursued by government on issues regarding acquisition of land from indigenous people. The UNDRIP establishes in article 32(2) that states have a duty to consult indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”.

Such consultations, according to UNDRIP , should comply with a number of minimum requirements, including that:  “Consultations must be formal, full and exercised in good faith; there must be a genuine dialogue between governments and indigenous and tribal peoples characterized by communication and understanding, mutual respect, good faith and the sincere wish to reach an accord. UNDRIP also says that consultations have to be undertaken through indigenous and tribal peoples’ representative institutions; and also that consultations have to be “undertaken with the objective of reaching agreement or consent to the proposed measures”.

Despite Tshekedi making assuring statements in the past that he was determined to reach an amicable settlement decision with the residents, government gestures, such as continuing with installation of the fence suggests a different story. The Ngwande Trust, which is owned by the Khumaga community, has always believed that the decision to erect a new fence is a plan by the Tourism ministry to protect the interest of one of the leading tourism companies, Chobe Holdings which has numerous interests in tourism in Botswana, including in Boteti around Khumaga village. The Khamas have interests in Chobe Holdings with their nephew Dale Ter Haar serving as one of its directors.

Chobe Holdings, which is headquartered in Maun, is the mother company of Desert and Delta Safaris and Ker and Downey Botswana, which operates combined 19 luxury lodges and safaris in Botswana and Namibia.  The lodge and safaris are sparsely located in tourism rich areas including Okavango, Maun and Boteti (where Khumaga is situated). Some of the lodges owned by Chobe Holdings’ two companies include Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango, Xugana Island Lodge and Leroo La Tau among others.

In 2013 Chobe Holdings challenged the ownership of Gwaraga land, a wildlife rich area owned by the Ngwande Trust.  Chobe Holdings contended that Ngwande Trust’s acquisition of the land will conflict with its operations and argued that it was never consulted when the Land Board handed the land to the Trust. According to councillor for Khumaga/Moreomaoto Thomas Kgethenyane, the residents, though they opposed the government’s proposal, went into negotiation on “give and take basis” of which government agreed to some of their demands.

As per the initial agreement, government was to allow the community Trust and individuals who held camp site licences to continue having access to the other side of the fence and also to be allowed to operate their businesses freely. Recently, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Rule Jimmy Opelo accompanied by other officials from the ministry issued a directive that everybody should move to the other side of the fence contrary to the “give and take” preposition initially agreed on.

“We were informed the relocation affects everybody, and that there is no more space left on the other side of the fence for allocation of camp sites,” said Kgethenyane, “This is not what we agreed but government is going ahead with its plans.”
WeekendPost has been informed that the government’s ‘bullying’ approach will see residents losing the land, lucrative farming areas as well as their camp sites leases and licences. As the conflict between government and Khumaga resident grows thick, councillor Kgethenyane has promised to bring the matter to the attention of the international community, if government continues with its action.

“As we speak, government is hiding information on the entry points after erection of this new fence. Everybody is in the dark about it despite earlier assurance by government that residents would be allowed to have access to the river,” he said.
“The whole thing was a lie, people are being driven into poverty with no beneficiation in the tourism activities and people will lose their ploughing fields.”

KEY PLAYERS ON KHUMAGA SAGA

Slumber Tsogwane –Boteti West MP and Minister of Local Government “Consultation does not mean agreement, but Khumaga residents know what the Government wants to do as they were consulted, and Government continues to engage them. Of course not all people agree with the Government’s decision, and I am not aware of their intention to go to court. If it is something that they want to do, there is nothing wrong with it.” April 2016 Tshekedi Khama- Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism“I do not believe in imposing decisions. I try to reach consensus with people because if you impose decisions on them, you will face some sort of resistance. When things are done right, people will appreciate and there will be no criticism.” February 2016

Continue Reading

News

ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

Continue Reading

News

Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

Continue Reading

featured

Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

Continue Reading