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Why Lake Ngami is claiming lives

Over loading of passengers by operators

When the mighty Lake Ngami is mentioned, most people recall the occasional drowning cases that recently associated with the Lake. Boat accidents have claimed several lives of visitors, boat operators and fishermen. The police have attempted to map what could be causing the accidents. On the other hand tourism officials and conservation officials emphasise the importance of the revered site.

In 2014 alone, Sehithwa Police recorded eight cases of drowning in Lake Ngami. According to the Station Commander, Zakes Masike explains that most the deaths are a result of boat accidents occasioned by waves that overpower the boat; excessive overloading of passengers; and also using the boat whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Police reports indicate that victims of drowning occasionally involve fish traders – but most of the accidents involve people who are new to the lake. Police say people come to explore the lake, “but sadly without knowledge of the dangers that the lake could potentially cause, visitors end up becoming victims to drowning,” said the station commander.

 However there is an opposite and debatable argument as to what could be causing the loss of lives. For traditionalists and elders from surrounding villages the main causes of drowning at the lake is the complete disregard of believes and cultural practices that should be performed before one embarked on a journey to the Lake Ngami. Elders stress that for visitors to explore the lake without any danger of drowning its advisable that they pass through traditional healers or leaders of the village to protect them against evil spirits believed to be in control of the lake.

Located at the southern edge of the North West district about 100km from Maun, Lake Ngami lies in the Okavango Delta Ramar Site within Ngamiland. It is situated within a shallow sedimentary depression at the distal end of the Okavango Delta. According to Management Plan for Lake Ngami (MPLN) during the 1980’s and 1990’s the lake was a dry basin which only experienced occasional inflows from the Kunyere and Nhabe rivers.  

But since the start of the recent high flood phase in the Okavango system in 2004, the lake has steadily filled and forecast reports point to a possibility of the lake carrying water for the next couple of decades. The area is currently concentrated in six main villages of Bodibeng, Bothathogo, Sehithwa, Toteng, Kareng and Legothwana which fall under the jurisdiction of Maun Administrative Authority (MAA).

The dark side of people drowning at the Lake worries tourism officials because they believe that it is somehow clouding its natural beauty. They believe that these misfortunes kill the essential tourism element of the lake to. Tourism resources of the Lake relate primarily to birdlife viewing and fishing rather than wildlife.

The entire Lake Ngami has been identified by Birdlife Botswana as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The MPLN underscores that Lake Ngami is unique in Botswana and Southern Africa with respect to birdlife and states that there is no other comparable birding area in the region. IBA is a worldwide initiative aimed at identifying and protecting a global network of sites for the conservation of the world's birds and other biodiversity. According to Birdlife Botswana, twelve Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been designated in Botswana which Lake Ngami is part of. These are birds considered threatened species listed as endangered, vulnerable or near threatened.

According to the Director of Birdlife Botswana Dr Kabelo Senyatso, Lake Ngami being an officially recognized Important Bird Area, the IBAs status to Botswana adds an extra value to the tourism destination of this country.

“Due to this status of Lake Ngami Botswana obviously benefits from the increase of tourists arrival to Lake Ngami,” he added.

Dr Senyatso also expressed concern about increasing cases of drowning at the Lake. He explains that it has a negative impact to the country’s tourism. He says the Lake is viewed as an unsafe area because of the frequent cases of drowning which have unfortunately resulted in deaths. He added that this has led to his office to presently not actively promote tourism to the site until it is developed in terms of bird viewing facility such as piers, a fence, or a bird-hide and well-resourced first-aid kits, as well as competent rescue teams in place.

Dr Senyatso calls on the government to invest both in development of the tourism infrastructure, and conservation of Lake Ngami in order to fully exploit its benefits.

Notwithstanding the controversial influx of Zambians and Congolese traders at the lake, residents around the lake have benefited much in terms of commercial fishing operations which is on the rise at the lake. Most locals engaged in the business of fishing there testify that Lake Ngami has now become a source of economic upgrade for many. They believe that if it were not of the recent influx of foreigners who have disturbed and caused commotion to their business, Lake Ngami could survive the hardship of environmental changes and benefit future families.

Commercial fishing in the lake is reported to have also fuelled a conflict of interest between the same life of birds reported by Birdlife Botswana and fish traders.

Birdlife Botswana Director, Dr Senyatso explains that a conflict of natural resources and artificial fishing facilities arise because fishermen and birds compete for the same fish/food resource. He says these events at the lake negatively impact on the birdlife. He added that the disturbance into the environmental cycle/food chain by human presence affect the normal behavior of the birds.  

MPLN informs that unmanaged movement within the lake by fishermen poses a threat to breeding birds because fishermen approach too close to their breeding sites causing them to fly away.

“Fishermen also unwittingly chase birds off nest by trying to feed them, but the dead fish they dump rots and causes birds to abandon the nests. Also this abandoned fishing nets sometimes filled with rotting fish are a threat because they trap birds and livestock,” reads the MPLN.  

Explaining what future environmental concerns at the lake might create, Dr Senyatso opines that it is unlikely that Lake Ngami could lose its status of being an IBA within the next five years or beyond.

“IBAs are designated based on long-term population trends of threatened bird species and the condition of habitats at the site, so we remain optimistic that these are improving, rather than being degraded.”

Senyatso advises that Botswana should minimize the negative impact and keep all the stakeholders’ attention on the benefit of Lake Ngami as a tourism destination. He explains that all the stakeholders including tourists, public and private sectors in the tourism industry, and communities residing near Lake Ngami should equally benefit from Lake Ngami.
 

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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