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BMC bans Boteti farmers from EU market

  • BMC enters government, Boteti residents tourism/ land wars
     
  • Tshekedi accused of trying to protect family interests
     
  • BMC will not accept Boteti cattle for EU market erection of new fence
     
  • Residents could be forced to choose between ‘two devils’
     
  • Embargo meant to coerce residents to accept government demands


Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has entered Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and Boteti residents affray over a cordon fence, declaring that it will not accept cattle from the region for its European Union (EU) market until the matter is resolved.

Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism is ensnared in tug-of-war with residents of Boteti, over the realignment of Makgadikgadi fence which will separate people from wildlife in the area. The ministry’s proposal will see Boteti residents losing access to lucrative farming land through the envisaged relocations.

A statement from Ministry of Agriculture’s Permanent Secretary, Boipelo Khumomatlhare, recently stated that with effect from 18 August 2016, Francistown abattoir will be open for slaughter for export for EU market for several zones (Zones 3c, 4b,5, 6a, 8, 9, and parts of Zone 10).

This is subsequent to an audit carried out last year by EU to review the controls in Zone 4a, 6a, and 6b. These are the Zones which surrounds Francistown BMC abattoir hence approval for exportation to EU market.

However, government has gone against the approval of EU by banning Zone 4a from exporting until the resolution on the proposed realignment of Makgadikgadi fence. According to the ministry, Zone 4a will be open for EU market if the proposed fence goes through to make it an effective barrier.

With resident in Khumaga, a Boteti village baldy hit by the proposed relocation and erection of new fence and having already resolved to go to court to settle the conflict, the new development is expected to have a devastating economic effect on the farmers in the area.

According to residents who spoke to this publication, BMC and MoA are ‘buying’ the saga between them and Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism in order to subvert chances of them winning against government.

The resolution to go to court by Khumaga residents came into effect following government’s decision to go ahead and start marking an area where the new fence will be erected. This was despite the task team appointed by Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama failing to reach agreement with residents.

Tshekedi had assured Khumaga residents that government will not impose a decision on them but continue to engage with them until the matter is resolved.

The new development is seen as part of large battle for the government efforts to relocate Khumaga resident as well as those of Motopi, Moreomaoto, Mmadikola and Rakops who will also lose part of their farming land should government plan see the light of the day.

The ban by BMC on Boteti farms is also interpreted as a tactic by government to speed up the resolution on the matter by offering two devils to the residents, that is, the residents will be forced to choose between accepting government proposal or to lose the lucrative EU market for their cattle.

Tshekedi Khama, and his elder brother, President Lt Gen Ian Khama could not convince residents on their proposal despite numerous visits and Kgotla meeting with residents.

Government has purported that the erection of the new fence will be for the benefit of residents as it will reduce the risk of Foot and Mouth disease carried by buffaloes into the area. Residents had tabled a counter proposal that Ministry of Tourism should instead refurbish an existing fence to keep wild animals including buffaloes from domestic animals.

Tshekedi poured cold water on the request, saying the best government can do is to erect a new one as envisaged by the government proposal. He expressed in a Kgotla meeting in April this year that refurbishing the fence was more expensive since the solar panels and other infrastructure were being stolen.

Tshekedi’s reluctance to refurbish the fence is contrary to EU’s misgivings about its status-after going for a long time without being refurbished, and posing the risk that came with free movement of wild animals from the Makgadikgadi National Park to the side of the village.

The government proposal has also not enjoyed support from Bangwato Chief, Gonkgang Mankgatau of Rakops who fears that the residents will lose their farms and boreholes as a result of the proposed fence.

While Tshekedi insist the proposal to relocate the fence is being made in the interest of the resident, 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.

Chobe Holding is also linked to the Khamas, who are believed to have interests in the company. Khama’s nephew, Dale Ter Haar serves as one of the directors of the company.

Two years ago 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.

Member of Parliament for Boteti West, Slumber Tsogwane who serves in Khama’s cabinet, has thrown the weight behind government’s decision and thus, breaking ranks with scores of his constituents. Tsogwane, is the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development. He insisted that government has the right to take away the land for “national interests” purposes even if there is no agreement with residents.

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