Batswana fishers complain of exploitation at Lake Ngami
Local and foreign fishermen are at loggerheads at Lake Ngami over the price of fish and unfair labour practices. It has emerged that some locals want foreigners to be evicted from the Lake Ngami site while the Department of Wildlife and National Parks is convinced that the arrival of foreigners from Zambia and the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) has improved the fortunes of local fishermen.
It is understood that it was the position of Government that finding a foreign market for local fishermen was paramount as they were struggling to locate one. The rules were relaxed a bit to allow foreigners to trade, but now locals at the Lake Ngami say this has now turned into disadvantage, because they are being heavily exploited by the foreigners.
Now the locals blame the influx of Zambians and Congolese traders to Lake Ngami on government. Government was at the forefront of finding a market for local fish traders in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo. The arrangements came after the government realized that Ngami fishers are finding it difficult to locate markets locally and outside the country.
Though he could not confirm nor deny that the government brought in foreigners to Lake Ngami, in an interview Principal Wildlife Officer of Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Maun, Shaft Nengu agreed that before 2012, when foreigners migrated in numbers to Lake Ngami, the business life of local fishermen in Ngamiland region was faced with difficulties of finding a market for their product.
“But one cannot hide from the fact that before the influx of foreign traders, business was not good for our local commercial fishers because it was difficult for them to find a market,” revealed Nengu.
Nengu observed that his office is also concerned about the ongoing abuse Batswana fishers are experiencing in the lake as they are sadly being exploited by foreigners. He explained that the foreign traders have found an unfair opportunity of the recent rise of commercial fishing to daily rob Batswana. Nengu expressed that if operated fairly, the foreign market was a great opportunity for Batswana, in contrast to what is currently happening where fishers experience underpricing and abusive labour practices.
It is reported that there has been recent high demand for fish in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo, and the two countries have welcomed the cheap supply of fish from Botswana. After recent flowing in of the lake around 2007, this led to a peak in commercial fishing that has now become the main source of living for residents of surrounding villages.
Lake Ngami Fishing Multi-Purpose Cooperation (LNMPC) Chairperson, Bareetsi Bogaisang disagrees with the notion that local fish traders used to find it difficult to secure a market for their business. Though he agrees that indeed there where some challenges like any other business would have, he opines that their businesses were operating and profiting smoothly compared to recent times. He said the influx of Zambians and Congolese fish traders at Lake Ngami has negatively affected them.
The chairperson complained that Zambians and Congolese are in total control of commercial operations at the lake. “They are now the ones who decide at what price our fish should be sold to them.”
Bogaisang also observed that not only do foreigners exploit them, but they have now brought difficulties into their businesses. He linked most of the drownings at Lake Ngami to labour pressure that foreigners put on Batswana, as they end up forcing them to work under harsh conditions (late at night and in windy conditions) to meet their immediate demands. In 2014 alone, Botswana police has recorded eight (8) cases of drowning at Lake Ngami, and most of the victims are fish traders.
He explained that the influx of foreign traders into the lake has attracted a lot of other local illegal fishers who are not licensed to operate there. Bogaisang stated that this has led to the business being more individualistic instead of being organised as before. He blamed this on the fact that there is nothing that binds them together. He added that this has also led to the Lake Ngami Fishing Multi Purpose Cooperation being ineffective to control the market price.
Bogaisang explained that as a cooperative they agreed on minimal price of selling their fish at a price of P4 for small fish and P5 for big fish. It is now understood that foreigners target individuals because they have since realised that some within local fishermen are in desperate need of fast cash. Bogaisang added that the price ended up dropping from the set price to around P1 and P2, a price now set by foreigners.
He explained that if individuals agree to sell their fish at low prices, they intend to own the foreign market; this has forced others to drop their prices so that they are able to compete for the foreign buyers.
“If a foreigner proposes P30 000 to a desperate local fisher demanding 8000 fish from him, the local will give in without realising that in Zambia or DRC that will make a profit of around P100 000.”
Bogaisang explained that Lake Ngami Fishing Multi Purpose Cooperation as a marketing body for Lake Ngami fishermen, advocates for one bargaining body that is in control of the commercial process at the lake. He explained that it will be better if the cooperative stands as a middle man between fishers and buyers (Zambians and Congolese).
He explained that it will be best for their business if these foreign traders are not allowed to come anywhere near the lake and the fish being sold in bulk or per kilograms (kg) through the cooperative. He added that they aim to open a warehouse at the lake and run it as a factory. He highlighted that if the process is like that, Batswana will be in control of setting their standard selling rate hence benefitting more.
Bogaisang complained that the Government is also not doing enough to make sure that Batswana who are in the business of fishing excel at it. “We also want to be recognised like other Batswana who are in different businesses; we must be given the necessary support that we need.”
He indicated that Batswana who have fishing licenses should also be given some training. He said some of the human errors that occur at the lake happen because most of them lack the knowledge of how the fishing business operates. He blamed the Government for neglecting them at Lake Ngami as he explains that there is no intensive monitoring taking place there.
Meanwhile Nengu, who is also head of Fisheries at DNWP, Maun, refuted claims that the influx of fishing operations at Lake Ngami might lead to extinction and depletion of fish in the near future. He explained that his office has made thorough research and they have proven otherwise that the lake has not shown any sign of decline in number of fish resources.
As a usual routine the fishing operations at Lake Ngami have ceased to be effective from December 31 2014 until March 1st 2015 for another season but LNMPC chairperson is concerned that they barely benefited in the past season due to the influx of foreigners.
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.