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Voices from the elephant captured villages

In the villages on the fringes of the Okavango Delta, a festering war between elephants and local flood recession farmers has been ongoing for years with a devastating impact on the farmers.

Some farmers have abandoned their farms in an effort to run away from the elephants but increasingly there is nowhere to run. The village of Tubu is located 10 kilometres east of Gumare village, on the fringes of the Okavango Delta. Farmers in this area describe their village as their breadbasket whose produce they feed other residents and sell the surplus to other villages. One of the farmers even boosted that theirs is a success story in a country like Botswana which has for decades failed to produce enough to feed itself.

Tube residents practice flood recession commonly known as Molapo Farming. This system is practiced along the edges of the river channels or seasonally flooded depressions.A Molapo farmer relies on residual moisture and natural fertilization of the floodplains. According to online information from the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, there are two different systems of crop farming in the Okavango region: dryland farming and flood recession or Molapo farming.

A land-use assessment utilising satellite images which was carried out by the University of Botswana found that out of 48,900 hectares cleared for cultivation in Ngamiland, 75% consists of dryland fields and 25% of fields temporarily inundated floodplains or Molapo farms. However, coupled with poor climatic conditions and climate change; drought conditions and elephant increase, clashes between elephants and farmers have become more pronounced in the Tubu area. As a result, some farmers have been forced to abandon their farms but the elephants still find them. Journalist Boniface Keakabetse interviewed three farmers in the area to hear their story.

Kebapile Saudu- I wish I was just dead than to experience this misery

59 year old Kebapile Saudu is one of the farmers affected by elephants. He revealed in an interview that he used to farm at Chaa fields.  However, Saudu was forced to abandon Chaa by elephants and had to relocate closer to Tubu village in 2017. Saudu’s forced relocation came after a rogue elephant attacked and injured his uncle at Chaa farm. “After this incident my wife said to me let us run away as these animals are going to kill us.”

Saudu continued: “I have been farming here in Tubu for three years now. The elephants forced me to abandon my farm which I was allocated by Tawana Land Board in Chaa. I cannot return there as I fear elephants. But the elephants have now followed me.  They are here in Tubu in large numbers. We have nowhere to run.” Saudu continued:” I wish God would just take my life than to suffer like this. How do I live? How do I fend for my family when elephants eat everything I plow? This has been ongoing for more than three years now. We are suffering.”

Saudu continued: “there is no how you can stop an elephant when it comes in to your farm. We always try to chase them by setting up fires at night in an attempt to scare them but these giants are unstoppable. As soon as they come in the middle of the night you will hear dogs barking then we know disaster has come. We would wake up; stoke up the fire in a desperate attempt to chase them away. But all these efforts prove a futility at the end of the day. The elephants will just fall the fence and eat all the crops.

Kelemogile Xao- we will be forced to abandon our fields and become poachers

Another farmer interviewed was Kelemogile Xao whose farm is also located in Tubu. At the time of the interview, Xao was busy preparing for the coming plowing season. However, he explained that he is still uncertain he will get anything from his farm due to the marauding elephants.

Xao said: “I used to plow pumpkins, maize which I loaded in big trucks to sell as far as Gumare and even Maun. These elephants start coming into our fields as soon as the maize starts growing. This farm was my life but elephants destroyed my livelihood. At the moment I do not know how I am going to live or feed with my family.”

“For years I have been planting crops to feed the elephants not my family. I have been turned in to a pauper who would soon enrol for government social services programme because the elephants are stopping me to feed myself. The government must intervene and help us otherwise we would be forced resort to poaching.”

Letsweletse Sarefo: No Money for my Children’s Education

The 45-year-old woman farmer in Tubu also farms a Molapo farm. She explained that for the last two years elephants have destroyed her field by falling fence and eating the crops. “Once elephants fall the fence, cattle comes in through the fallen fence to finish all the crops.

Sarefo stated: “my entire produce values around P 3000, 00 per year. But for three years all my produce was eaten by elephants. I use the money I get from selling the produce to feed my family and spend on my children's education. But the last years have been bad for me due to the elephant’s damage. Sarefo called on the government to help farmers erect stronger farm fences that can withstand the elephants.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

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.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We 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,“ 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 “Government 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.”

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.

“SADC 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,” 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.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

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 deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” 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.

“Yesterday, 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,” 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 12th 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 (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato 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,” 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.

“I 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,” 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.

“Phillip 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 Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, 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 6th of next month

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