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.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
â€śBotswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,â€ť says Dr. Kwape. He wouldnâ€™t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
â€śWe will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,â€ś he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the â€śGovernment of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.â€ť
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
â€śSADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,â€ť the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceasedâ€™s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrateâ€™s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
â€śThe third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,â€ť Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
â€śYesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,â€ť said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12thÂ of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Astonâ€™s children) are staying.
â€śThato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,â€ť said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
â€śI have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,â€ť Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
â€śPhillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mallâ€ť the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the â€śunknown callerâ€ť and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused,Â Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6thÂ of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
â€śWe spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine â€“ that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,â€ť said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herderâ€™s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,â€ť said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).