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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.