Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism; Tshekedi Khama
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is in danger of losing significant support in Ngamiland and Boteti regions as land ownership wars take a bad turn, with accusation levelled against government for wanting to annex land for private purposes.
Tension continues to sear in Ngamiland and Boteti, with the two communities having launched different legal suits against government’s decision to seize sizeable amount of land for tourism purposes.
While government is still smarting from an acrimonious relationship with Bakgatla over their chief, Kgosi Kgafela Kgafela II, the ruling party could be facing another hostile eruption in Ngamiland and Boteti, two of Botswana’s tourism rich areas.
BDP has already lost a grip, in one constituency in Maun (Maun West), which was defended by Kgosi Tawana Moremi II of the Umbrella for Democracy (UDC) in the past general elections. BDP initially lost the constituency when Kgosi Tawana II defected to BDP splinter Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which is now a group member of UDC.
BDP managed to retain one seat, albeit with the help of split votes from Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and UDC. The brewing wars, helped by the cooperation of BCP and UDC could prove trouble for the ruling party.
Kgosi Tawana II who is a member of the Tourism Parliamentary Committee have said the land dispossession carried on the people of Ngamiland has created poverty in the region, with residents being turned into spectators in the tourism industry. Tourism is the second largest contributor of Botswana’s GDP.
Tourism Parliamentary Committee has just concluded its annual duties, with Ngamiland region having been under the spotlight. Kgosi Tawana II could not comment on the findings of the committee for fear of compromising its integrity but stated that the report will be available very soon.
Batawana are preparing to file a notice with attorney general to launch the legal suit against government in a highly anticipated battle for the ownership on Moremi Game Reserve.
In Khumaga, a settlement in Boteti, even the Khama magic could not win the day as residents remain resolute that the annexation of land, through the erection of a fence will leave them in a state of despair, with little access to part of their land.
President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama, who is Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, had frequented the village of Khumaga with a view of convincing the residents to relent, but to no avail.
Their last visits were in April this year and they failed to persuade the residents to give in. However government has forged ahead with plans to erect the fence, with Member of Parliament for the area, Slumber Tsogwane stating, “Consultation is not an agreement, but government has a right to take land for national interest.”
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.
Khumaga village, which has gravely been affected by the decision, is an opposition ward, but at constituency level, the BDP defended the seat in the last general elections, thanks again to opposition split votes between UDC and BCP.
North West District Council Chairperson and former BDP parliamentary candidate for Maun West, Reaoboka Mbulawa has however dismissed the ongoing efforts by Batawana tribal leader Kgosi Tawana Moremi II to take the matter to court.
Mbulawa said doing so serves only as division and detriment to the country’s previous achievements.
“There is no land saga. This is just a perspective some individuals have based on personal agenda that finds the tribe involved. When we took independence we agreed as Batswana to share resources and use what the country produces collectively,” he said.
“We were all educated, and health as well as roads and communications infrastructure were achieved through diamonds from Orapa as well as Jwaneng mines. We cannot allow ourselves to be derailed by individuals who seek personal pieces of land and forget where we come from.”
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.
The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.
He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison. In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned. Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.
Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated
He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated
He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted
Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.
‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it. ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated
He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added
He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.
Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’
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Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”