The decision by government through the Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism (MWET) to place Lake Ngami Conservation Trust in charge of managing the Lake could come back to haunt them-the trust is reportedly bankrupt.
It has surfaced that the Trust will not be able to enact the first stage of of developments and solutions promised the Ngami fishermen.
Government, through the MWET minister Tshekedi Khama after issuing a directive closure and a fishing ban at the lake on February 2015 disclosed that the 12 months ban will give time for the trust to build a hotel, ablutions and other necessities to accommodate fishermen who will be licensed to fish at Lake Ngami.
Three months on, none of the developments have begun. Instead the mandated Trust is however reported to be running around begging international financial donors for donations to help pay for an Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
It has been reported that the Trust is not financially able to pay for the environmental impact assessments (EIA) to be made on the site where they plan to develop within the lake. The assessments are normally made for approval of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to guide how the area will be managed. According to an official from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks the total cost of the EMP is estimated to be around P100 000.00.
“The trust has been registered and approved but however we are stuck and cannot move forward because of the EMP, it is unfortunate that the Trust does not have the money to pay for it,” Mpho Setlhogile an Official from DWNP revealed when addressing the Maun Administrative Authority Sub Council this week.
According to Setlhogile, the Trust through its Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) has pleaded for financial assistance from international bodies which include, Conservation Trust Fund, United Nation Development Plan’s Sustainable Land Management project, Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Area (KAZA) and locally from the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO).
“We are waiting in hope that we can get a positive response from them,” lamented Setlhogile.
In response to the developments, MAA Councilors have complained that the government made an urgent and unthought-of decision without considering proper preparations of changes they promised fishermen. Some argued that the government could have not urgently banned fishing but rather used the fishing at the lake to raise the necessary funds.
The council members have gone out full blast, declaring failure on the government’s planning strategy. The government was further accused of being rash, since if it had wisely thought the decision through, the money for the EMP could have been raised through the fishing activity and the Trust would not be in the rut.
Sub Council Chairman, Gaokgakala Letswee also stressed that DWNP should update them on regular bases, reasoning that the community affected by the ban are questioning the council on its progress, and as councillors they to provide answers.
Meanwhile DWNP has revealed that they are still experiencing challenges of illegal fishers at the lake. The department said that they continue to engage security agencies including Botswana Police Service and Botswana Defence Force to address the situation.
Fishing at both Lake Ngami and Lake Xau was banned by the government after concerns were raised in regard to the mass influx of commercial fishermen (including foreigners) at the lakes. Government argued that the influx could lead to fish resources depletion. The state also complained of environmental concerns sighting littering and no ablutions despite the mass numbers of people living there.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.