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Local, foreign fishermen at loggerheads in Ngami

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.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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