Minister of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has confirmed to WeekendPost that the government has imposed a 12 month fishing ban at both Lake Ngami and Lake Xau. The decision has left communities fuming.
The 1st of March 2015 was to mark the opening of another fishing season at Lake Ngami after the practice was suspended for a three months period since December 31st 2014. Four days before the fishing season commence, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism issued a directive extending the fishing ban period.
In September last year there were similar reports from MWET that Khama had ordered a directive for the closure of Lake Ngami. The reports caused panic at the Maun Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) as they could not explain where the order came from when the public insisted on knowing. But the decision was eventually reverted as the department and the Khama himself refuted any knowledge of the directive.
But today Khama has boldly come out to take charge and full ownership of the directive. In an interview Khama explained that the decision comes after the DWNP had difficulty with controlling the situation at the lake, which he explains as “out of hand”.
The Minister said that what started as domestic fishing by locals was now out of control due to mass influx of people who wanted to benefit by using the lake for commercial fishing.
After Lake Ngami started flowing in 2007 there was a rapid increase in commercial fishing. The commercial practice then attracted foreigners from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two countries have a high demand for fish. The aroused market then resulted in influx of illegal fish traders at Lake Ngami.
According to Khama this then lead to an increased number of applications for licensed fishing at the lake. In 2012 DWNP took a decision to cease new license applications to control the situation, but this resulted in a high number of illegal fishing, with the numbers continuing to rise daily.
Tshekedi explained that people started to forge the fishing licenses through photocopying them without their knowledge. He explained that in their inspections they also discovered that those who were licensed to operate were no longer following the regulations prescribed under the licenses.
Khama underscored that the rate at which fish resources were removed from the lake in large quantities raised a lot of concern to government. He emphasized that the lake has not fully recovered, hence the decision to suspend fishing for another 12 months.
Caught in the cross fire of illegal licenses was the Maun regional DWNP Head official responsible for awarding licenses who Khama said had been redeployed.
“I summoned him to my office in Gaborone recently for questioning. But when I asked him about the illegalities in awarding of the licenses his response was not satisfactory. So the decision was taken to remove him from that department,” explained Khama.
Khama regretted that the influx of foreigners led to Batswana being sidelined and not benefiting from the lake as they were being exploited. He further observed that foreigners benefited more from commercial fishing at Lake Ngami than Batswana.
Another issue raised by the minister as reason for the closure of the lake is bad environmental impact that extensive fishing had brought to the lake. He complained that the lake was now in a very bad condition and was also a health hazard for people. He said that there was lack of hygiene at the lake which is a cause for concern as the place is littered and without ablutions despite the large number of people who were operating there.
Maun Regional DWNP Officials said the government has now resolved that Lake Ngami Trust be given full responsibility to manage operations at the Lake and also uphold its management plan that was drafted in 2013. The trust is expected to be leased the Lake Ngami area soon by the Tawana Land Board. It is said that the suspended period will give the trust enough time to prepare for the next season. The trust proposed building hostels with ablutions to accommodate the fishermen. There will also be an export permit and amendment of trade price that will control the trade of fish in and outside the country.
However the decision has caused uproar to Batawana tribe who are mostly fishermen benefiting from commercial fishing at Lake Ngami. The fishermen are angered by the decision and have threatened the Regional Officials of DWNP that come Sunday (1st of March) they will be at the lake to commence their fishing season.
A heated controversial Kgotla meeting in Maun which had attracted throngs of the affected fishermen from areas such as Bothatogo, Sehitwa, Bodibeng, Kareng and Toteng was held this Thursday.
Lake Ngami Fishing Association Chairman, Loago Mokanki complained that MWET has failed to consult them about the decision. He explained that they learned about fishing ban from hearsay four days before the season started. He explained that they could not refuse the government decision but they should have been consulted well on time.
Mokanki has also demanded that the DWNP who announced the ban, to provide them with signed documents from the ministry as proof of the directive. However the Regional Deputy Director of Maun DWNP, Amos Ramokate also cleared his name and explained that his office received only a verbal directive from the permanent secretaryin the Minister of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism. Ramokate who had no answers to most of the questions from the public explained he will forward to his superiors to submit written documents.
Lake Ngami Fishing Association Chairman explained their reason for demanding a written document, that if the government does not want to listen to them they will take the matter to the courts.
Mokanki explained that they will resort to legal action if the government fails to hold dialogue with to them.
“Now we already have made debts as we purchased fishing materials (boats and nets) and this is very expensive materials so how will we repay them back. The money we get from fishing is the one that we hope to clear these debts and cover other living needs.”
The Chief Representative, Charles Letsholathebe who had the final say also turned down the regional DWNP officials who he said will not be able to answer concerns from the affected people. Letsholathebe added that Minister Tshekedi Khama and his permanent secretary are the appropriate people to come and address them.
Letsholathebe said that it was clear that the government wanted to rob Batawana their assets in Ngamiland so they should come themselves to address them and not send their juniors.
“Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park have been taken away from us and we were not consulted now the same thing is about to happen with Lake Ngami, no,” lamented Letsholathebe.
As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.
According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.
According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.
“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.
BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.
Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.
Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.
BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.
The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.
Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.
In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made. “Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.
Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25
They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.
In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations. The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.
The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.
The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.
The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public “Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.
Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.
The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.
“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).
The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.
Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.
A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service. Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.
A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.
He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.
Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.
Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates. “The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.
This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.
That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”
Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.
“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.
The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.
According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu
For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”
The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.