UK org dares Gov’t on trophy hunting
For some international organisations, sleeping dogs will never lie as they continue to push against the Botswana government following last year’s decision to lift the hunting ban and allow trophy hunting. This week, a United Kingdom based wildlife charity, The Born Free Foundation which seeks to have a positive impact on animals in the wild and protect their ecosystem in perpetuity joined the bandwagon.
“We note with concern the news that the registration process is under way for an auction for a number of elephant hunting packages. Born Free is ethically opposed to the hunting or killing of any animal for sport or pleasure,” wrote Mark Jones who is Head of Policy for the foundation. The letter which is addressed to the Director of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Dr Cyril Taolo continued to read; “We challenge the claims made by proponents of trophy hunting that it delivers significant conservation and community benefits, or that it positively contributes to the sustainable use of wildlife.”
Ever since President Mokgweetsi Masisi took a bold decision of lifting the hunting ban as a formula to curb the growing elephant population which is also affecting local farmers, conservationists have reacted in outrage. Most of the antagonists of the ban lifting say this is an “archaic” and “disappointing” practice.
Botswana has the largest elephant population on the continent with more than 135,000 roaming freely in unfenced parks and wide open spaces. Some experts say the number of elephants in this country, renowned as a luxury safari destination, has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now be more than 160,000. Botswana has a booming elephant population, which is increasingly coming into contact with people. Records as of last year revealed that about 200 people died from elephant attacks in the past five years.
Farmers have also struggled to keep elephants out of their fields, where they eat and destroy crops. However, despite this, Born Free Foundation is not shaken to vent out their frustration in trophy hunting and is also disappointed by the criteria set for one to acquire the hunting packages as it limits bidders to those with “appropriate elephant hunting experience who can provide proof of membership of hunting associations.”
Those bidding for the packages are also required to provide a list of at least five years’ of elephant hunting experience who will be employed by the hunting operator. The Foundation’s letter further critiqued the government’s seemingly favouring method of selecting bidders: “The criteria appears to limit bidders to those who will undertake elephant hunting, and to exclude individuals or organisations who may wish to bid for the concessions in order to develop non-consumptive conservation programmes that will provide benefits for both wildlife and local people.”
The argument is in consonance with what Masisi has promised to deliver — an inclusion of the indigenous community in the tourism sector. This was echoed by Member of Parliament for Kanye North Thapelo Letsholo, who this week, responded to the Budget Speech. “Government to reserve licenses for citizen operators in the tourism sectors, including reserved concessions for citizens only. We should pronounce that in the case that existing concession licenses wish to sell any shares in their businesses, Batswana must be given first right of refusal,” Letsholo said.
WeekendPost understands that there is an ongoing conflict over Mababe concession which has the largest elephant species. The local tourism operators are at risk of losing the bid over the preferred foreign national, Johan Calitz. Already six licenses to hunt a total of 60 elephants is on the market. Seven hunting packages, of 10 elephants each, were available for auction. Only one (package) was not sold as no bidder met the reserve price of 2 million pula ($181,000)," said Adrian Rass, Managing Director of Auction It, who was quoted by the international media. The six (packages) were sold for a total price of 25.7 million Pula ($2.3m)."
Ever since last year’s elections, 72 licenses were issued for game hunting, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng revealed in Parliament this week. She further added that 68 animals have already been hunted. The international foundation which is caring for wild animals implores government to suspend the bidding process.
“We implore you to suspend the bidding process to enable opportunities for a wider range of stakeholders to engage and at the very least to consider revision of the criteria to allow for alternative sources of funding to be fully considered,” she said. Currently, various interested parties are filing their bids to grab the concessions, but Born Free maintains that there are other sustainable and far more effective methods than trophy hunting and benefitting local communities.
“These include land use reform, conservation-compatible agriculture; co-existence approaches such as through the careful development of non-destructive, low impact wildlife tourism aimed at both international and domestic markets and innovative funding packages,” suggested Jones. The worry from the animal lobby foundation is also anchored on the fact that the African bull elephant, the ‘‘Big tusker’’, has declined precipitously as a result of targeting by trophy hunters and poachers.
This, the organisation say, leads to loss of accumulated social knowledge and experience as well as genes that may be hugely important to herd health.“Older bull elephants help to control younger males in the bachelor groups, who may become aggressive when the older bulls are removed, with the resulting potential for increased conflict with people.”
Conservationist are also of the view that trophy hunting is not sustainable and not financially prudent. According to the 2013 report, ‘Dead or Alive? Valuing an Elephant’, a live elephant may be worth as much as $1.6 million over its lifetime through income from photographic tourism. This is said to be forty times the average fee of around $40,000 paid by the trophy hunters to shoot a bull elephant.
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DPP drops Kably threat to kill case
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe Liakat Kably has welcomed the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)â€™s decision not to prosecute BDP councillor, Meshack Tshenyego who allegedly threatened to kill him. However, the legislator has warned that should anything happen to his life, the state and the courts will have to account.
In an interview with this publication, Kablay said he has heard that the DPP has declined to prosecute Tshenyego in a case in which he threatened to kill him adding that the reasons he received are that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. â€śI am fine and at peace with the decision not to prosecute over evidential deficits but I must warn that should anything happen to my life both the DPP and the Magistrate will have to account,â€ť Kablay said.
Connectedly, Kably said he has made peace with Tshenyego, â€śwe have made peace and he even called me where upon we agreed to work for the party and bury the hatchetâ€ť.
The DPP reportedly entered into a Nolle Prosequi in the matter, meaning that no action would be taken against the former Letlhakeng Sub-district council chairperson and currently councillor for Matshwabisi.
According to the charge sheet before the Court, councilor Tshenyego on July 8th, 2022 allegedly threatened MP Kably by indirectly uttering the following words to nominatedcouncilor Anderson Molebogi Mathibe, â€śMosadi wa ga Liakat le ban aba gagwe ba tsile go lela, Mosadi wame le banake le bone ba tsile go lela. E tla re re mo meeting, ka re tsena meeting mmogo, ke tla mo tlolela a bo ke mmolaya.â€ť
Loosely translated this means, Liakatâ€™s wife and children are going to shed tears and my wife and kids will shed tears too. I will jump on him and kill him during a meeting.
Mathibe is said to have recorded the meeting and forwarded it to Kably who reported the matter to the police.
In a notice to the Magistrate Court to have the case against Tshenyego, acting director of Public Prosecutions, Wesson ManchweÂ cited the nolle prosequi by the director of public prosecution in terms of section 51 A (30) of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana as reasons for dropping the charges.
A nolle prosequi is a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action.
â€śIn pursuance of my powers under section 51 A (300 of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana, I do hereby stop and discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused Meshack Tshenyego in the Kweneng Administrative District, CR.No.1077/07/2022 being the case of the State vs Tshenyego,â€ť said Manchwe. The acting director had drafted the notice dropping the charges on 13th day of March 2023.
The case then resumed before the Molepolole Magistrate Solomon Setshedi on the 14th of March 2023. The Magistrate issued an order directing â€śthat matters be withdrawn with prejudice to the State, accused is acquitted and discharged.â€ť
DPP seizes prosecution duties from Police
Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has finally taken over prosecution from the Botswana Police Service (BPS). The police have been prosecuting for years, but the takeover means that they will now only focus on investigations and then hand over to the DPP for prosecution.
Talks of complete takeover began as far back as 2008, but for years it seemed implementation was sluggish. However, the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, revealed that the complete takeover is expected to be completed soon.
During a presentation to the Committee of Supply by Shamukuni this week, it was revealed that the project has been implemented in 22 police stations nationwide, including Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, and Kasane. He further stated that the project has been allocated P3,000,000 for the 2023/2024 financial year to facilitate the opening of more satellite offices for the DPP.
Shamukuni said the Lobatse station is scheduled for a complete takeover by the end of May 2023, while the Kasane DPP satellite office has been established and became operational as of February 1, 2023.
“As reported previously, preparations are at an advanced stage to open a satellite office in Tsabong to curtail expenses, as well as frequent long-distance trips to these areas, as it is currently serviced by the Lobatse DPP office,” Shamukuni said.
Shamukuni said that the takeover strategy is to enable a seamless and gradual takeover of prosecution from the BPS without overwhelming and overstretching the thin resources at its disposal.
According to Shamukuni, the implementation of the prosecution takeover project has increased the workload of the 211 prosecutors in the DPP establishment.
Furthermore, the Justice Minister said DPP statistics show that the DPP has a total of 11,903 cases and dockets as of January 2023. He indicated that this is a significant increase in the number of cases being handled by the DPP, considering that in November 2021, the DPP had just over 8,471 files.
â€śOut of the total case load, 8 382 are cases pending before various courts while 3521 are dockets received from law enforcement agencies of which 1 325 are awaiting service of summons while the rest are being assessed for suitability of prosecution or otherwiseâ€ť said Shamukuni.
He further stated that The DPP has consistently maintained an 80% success rate in matters completed at court.
â€śAs at the end of January 2023, the success rate stood at 82.3% against a target of 90% whilst the average performance in respect of turnaround time for conclusion of cases at court stood at 17.5 months against a target of 18 months,â€ť he said.
BACKLOG OF CASES â€“ LAND TRIBUNAL
Meanwhile, Minister Shamukuni has revealed that Gaborone land Tribunal is experiencing a backlog of cases. Before parliament this week, Shamukuni revealed that a total 230 appeals were completed for the period of April 2022- December 2022 and only 76.5% of them were completed within set time frame.
The minister said that the Gaborone division has experiencing a backlog of cases due to manpower constraints and he further indicated that presiding officers from other divisions have been brought in to expedite case disposal.
He further indicated that the land tribunal is a specialized court that has been empowered to resolve appeals arising from land boards. â€śIt has been mandated to determine appeals from the decisions of Physical planning committees of Districts Councilsâ€ť said Shamukuni.
Land Tribunal relocated to the Ministry of Justice from Ministry of Land and Water Affairs in November 2022.
â€śAn amount of P37, 842,670 is requested to cover salaries, allowance and other operational expenses for the Department of the land Tribunal,â€ť alluded Shamukuni
BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies
When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.
Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.
Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.
However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.
“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.
The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.
In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.