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.â€¨â€¨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.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.