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.
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.