Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Special Forces Unit has been placed at the centre of recent rhino killings making international headlines, an observation that was refuted by the institution’s protocol and public affairs department this week.
Three rhinos were killed last week at the Chief’s Island, Okavango Delta area, taking the total number of poached rhinos to 57 in the last few months. Reports reaching WeekendPost suggests that the BDF Special Forces Unit is currently working under ‘protest’. It is reported that the protest emanates from the fact that the Special Forces Unit did not benefit from the 2019 salary adjustments known as ‘Ntlole’. There is suspicion that the Special Forces Unit’s dejection is the cause of recent unprecedented rate of rhino poaching in the Okavango Delta area.
Impeccable sources close to the barracks told this publication that based on their experience, Special Forces Unit has been of paramount importance and plays a pivotal role in the anti- poaching unit. “The difference between them and Infantry unit, Botswana Prisons Services and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks anti- poaching unit is that when they have contact, they eliminate almost all the poachers on the spot while others kill one and the rest will flee the scene,” one of the sources said.
It is reported that under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, where only four rhinos were poached in ten years, members of the Special Unit showed a high understanding of the anti- poaching exercise and did it passionately. The National Coordinator of the anti- poaching unit, as a practice, used to give a weekly report to President Khama and the Commander of the BDF on their operations, a routine that is reportedly no longer practiced by the current administration.
Colonel Tebo Dikole, Director, Protocol and Public Affairs declined to comment as BDF does not discuss operational matters such as, “the number of members of the Special Forces and Infantry Units currently deployed in the anti- poaching operations at Chief’s Island”. Colonel Dikole said notwithstanding the above, it is worth mentioning that assertions to the effect that Special Force members are sabotaging anti- poaching operations because they have not been affected by the 2019 BDF salary adjustments dubbed ‘Ntlole’, are absurd.
Dikole said that ‘conspiracy theories’ such as the one alleged in this case, only has the propensity to mislead the public and to tarnish the good name of the BDF. “The BDF in the execution of its mission of defending Botswana’s Territorial Integrity, Sovereignty and National Interests is not driven by the profit or remuneration. All BDF members including Special Forces’ performance hinges on one of our core values of ‘Duty’ which succinctly states that, ‘Duty is accomplishing all assigned tasks to the fullest of our ability,’ ” he said.
“The BDF wishes to underscore the fact that there is a marked difference between BDF members and mercenaries whose prime or sole motivation is private gain, whereas BDF members have been capacitated to put service before self as anything to the contrary would render such an individual not a member of the BDF in good standing.” Dikole said it would be wrong to attribute increased poaching to supposedly disgruntled BDF members.
He said poaching of rhinos in many countries has spiked up because of the astronomically high returns on the value of the rhino horn which is alleged to be around sixty five dollars ($65 000) per kg in the illegal market. A few days ago Africa CGTN reported that, the killings – slightly under 10 percent of Botswana’s total rhino population – have occurred in the northern Moremi Game Reserve since April last year. “Poaching has risen at an alarming rate in this area,” Moemi Batshabang, a deputy director with the government’s wildlife department told AFP.
“I can attest that 46 rhinos have been killed by highly organised poachers between April last year to date,” he said. Botswana is home to 500 rhinos, according to international conservation charity, Save the Rhino. They are a protected species in Botswana and fall outside the government’s recent decision to end a five- year ban on trophy- hunting licences, which is largely targeted at the burgeoning elephant population. “The increase in poaching of both the black and white rhino is of concern and unusual,” said Batshabang.
The unprecedented rate of poaching last year prompted the government to warn that the rhino population could be wiped out in the southern African country by 2021. Botswana’s neighbour South Africa, home to 80 percent of the world’s remaining rhinos and the epicentre of rhino poaching, lost 594 rhinos to poachers last year. The good news is that this marks a 23 percent drop from the previous year.
A squabble has broken out between Pule Mosala Funeral Parlour and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) over the remains of a South African national who has been in the Mosala mortuary for more than nineteen months. The deceased was one of 10 suspects who were controversially shot dead during a lengthy shootout with law enforcement authorities in Gaborone’s Phase 2 early last year.
The deceased individual’s family based in Soweto, has encountered difficulties in repatriating the body which has been in the care of Mosala Mortuary Services. Following the incident, it has emerged that all 10 bodies were transported to PFG mortuary in Lobatse for a brief period while the police attempted to locate their next of kin. It is reported that the families of the deceased were eventually identified and informed to come and identify their loved ones, including other South African nationals who were part of the criminal group. These families also witnessed the autopsy procedures conducted at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone.
Except for the family from Soweto, nine of the bodies were claimed and taken by their separate relatives. The Soweto family claims they lack the resources to bring the body back to South Africa and has made it known that they are looking for money. To end the supposed verbal agreement over the body’s storage for repatriation, Mosala Funeral Service has filed a case against the police at the Lobatse High Court.
According to Keakantse Mmotlhana, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, 10 people who were killed in Phase 2 by gunfire were all temporarily transferred to one of PFG’s branches in Lobatse by the police while efforts were made to find their next of kin. She expressed outrage at the statement made by the Minister of Defense and Security, recently.
After Assistant Police Commissioner Dipheko Motube called her office to apologize for giving the Minister wrong information during a news conference, she confirmed that they had accepted the apologies. He made it clear that one of the victims was still at Pule Mortuary in Lobatse.
Bushie Mosala, the director and owner of Mosala Funeral Services, confirmed that the body of a South African national has been in his mortuary for the past nineteen months. He expressed his desire for the police to remove the corpse from the mortuary, characterising the situation as a “nightmare.” He has instructed his legal team to file a lawsuit against the police in the Lobatse High Court concerning the body.
Mosala urged the acting Police Commissioner to come forward and apologize to the nation for the situation, asserting that the public has the right to know the truth regarding the body of the South African national, w
C -002Bhich was preserved by the police as evidence.
The South African High Commission in Gaborone had not responded to queries from Weekend Post at the time going of going to press.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) has expressed alarm over a troubling trend by the government. Tobokani Rari, Secretary General of the BOSETU, stated that it appears that these days, whenever there is a dispute between workers and the government, the administration is fast to run to the courts to attempt and muffle unions.
“This is quite disturbing development, we have seen it with the Botswana Doctors Union, there was a disagreement over the shift allowance, government rushed to court, they indeed got order that was saying the doctors should go and do the work. We have seen it with the nurses, they rushed to court they got the order, we are now seeing it with the teachers, they rushed to the court and they got what they wanted,” said Rari, who also served as the Secretary General of BOFEPUSU.
Rari raised concerns that the government’s enforcement of teacher’s work, through a court order will result in reduced classroom productivity and morale. Rari added that this situation would negatively impact labour relations and teachers emotional wellbeing due to dissatisfaction in their work places leading to persistently poor academic outcomes.
“You can get an order that forces people to work, but what happens at work, it heightens emotions, it destroys relationships and the morale goes down and productivity does. Courts and judgments don’t solve productivity issues. Productivity only comes when people are satisfied at the workplace, so if you force them to work through a court order then you may not get the maximum out of the working population,” said Rari
MESD vs BOSETU COURT CASE
“As you are aware, the Ministry of Education approached courts and they were demanding three things from the court in this case between BOSETU and the ministry. First, they were demanding that the joint letter that was written by BOSETU and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) asking members to stop doing course work because there was no agreement be declared unlawfully and BOSETU should write to its members and withdraw that letter within 24hrs. The second thing that they were looking for, was to interdict BOSETU from further issuing any instructions to that effect going forward. Lastly was that court should hold BOSETU to pay the cost of the lawsuit on a punitive scale,” Rari said.
Rari stated that the court decided to rule in favour of the Ministry of Education on all three relieves sought, that the savingram should be declared unlawful, that BOSETU should withdraw the contents savingram within 24hrs.
Court also said BOSETU should not issue any of such instructions going forward up until the case of contempt that BOSETU has taken to court, the contempt of the 2009 judgment has been decided. Court also awarded cost to the ministry on a punitive scale.
“BOSETU is a law abiding citizen and therefore we are bound by any laws and judgments that are there in Botswana and arise on the courts of Botswana hence we have complied with the order. On the 31st after the court case, we wrote to all our members and told them that the contents of that savingram as far as coursework is concerned has been withdrawn,” said Rari.
Rari said what happened in this case is that the judge decided to listen to the urgency without the responding affidavits of the opposing party, BOSETU, and went on to rule the merit of the case, which surprised the union.
“However we have been in discussion with our lawyers because if we leave things like this, we feel like we cannot leave that unchallenged. We have taken a decision to appeal the judgment,” Rari confirmed.
2023 COURSEWORK AND INVIGILATION AGREEMENT
“We would like to make our members aware that the following day after the judgment, we were able to meet the Ministry of Education and we have arrived at a conclusion that we signed an agreement that coursework rates will be increased by 5%. If court had ruled that coursework is the duty of the teachers’ means it wouldn’t have been any agreement after the court case, it tells you that the issue is still open and it is on the table. We have arrived at an agreement that there is going to be an increment on all components of coursework and invigilation,” Rari pointed out.
Rari further explained that Article 2 says union party is to submit detailed proposals on the intensity of the coursework for further engagement. Intensity of coursework means where the coursework payment starts in terms of varying from different subjects. He said the outcome based subject that are taught Maun Senior Secondary School and Moeng college which are agriculture and hotel and tourism is that ministry have agreed and acknowledge that there are some peculiarity in their coursework and therefore should be paid in line with the peculiarities that are contained in their coursework.
Rari pointed out the resolutions taken at the conference where the issue of application of corporal punishment was addressed. “BOSETU will issue out a memo to their members to advise them that they should not apply corporal punishment, they should leave it to be applied in line with the Education Act.”
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which had struck a deal with the Ministry of Education to supply some schools in the northern part of the country is counting losses as mass migration of buffalos jeopardize the Commission’s plans.
Information reaching this publication shows that the beef exporter was recently given the greenlight to supply government schools with beef. According to documents seen by this publication, as a result BMC had scheduled to buy and collect cattle in the Nata-Gweta and Boteti constituencies from 11 to 17 September.
This was after BMC and the Ministry of Education struck a deal for the former to supply government schools with beef. Letters exchanged between Ministry officials state that it has been recommended to the ministry to support BMC by allowing it to supply schools with beef products.
The Ministry indicated that it was aware that some schools have contracts that are currently running with suppliers such as local butcheries.
The Ministry revealed that at the same time BMC has 256 tins of frozen quality meat at its Maun Plant.
The Ministry requested the Director-Regional Operations to appoint an officer to manage the procurement of meat for schools that do not currently have running contracts. The Ministry further stated that Modalities of collection will be arranged between the region and the schools identified.
According to the Ministry, a list of schools including the condition of their cold rooms and their number of deliveries and kilograms per week they buy should be compiled. The Ministry also requested its officials to share the list with headquarters and the acting director-Basic Education, and engage BMC accordingly to procure.
But this plan ran into trouble after it emerged that between 300 to 500 buffalos migrated from the buffalo fence area to Nata, Dukwi and Mosetse areas.
The Department of Veterinary Services sprang into acting by revising movement protocol for cloven-hoofed animals with immediate effect following buffalo sightings in zone 3b which covers Nata/Sowa, zone 3c which is around the Dukwi areas as well as zone 6a, which covers the Mosetse area, which fall under zones, 3b, 3c, 5,6a and 8.
The Department of Veterinary Services indicated that as a result, movement of live cloven-hoofed animals and their products out of zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a and 8 were prohibited and that movement of live cloven-hoofed animals within and into these zones is only allowed for direct slaughter at licensed slaughter facilities under veterinary movement permit issued through BAITS.
The department also indicated that the movement of fresh products derived from cloven-hoofed animals such as raw milk, skins and fresh meat into these zones is also only allowed under a similar arrangement.
Movement of live cloven-hoofed animals into these zones for rearing and other purposes will not be allowed, and farmers and the general public is requested to continue being vigilant and report any buffalo sightings to the nearest veterinary office, the police or the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the department said.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture has stated that following the press release on prohibition of movement of live cloven-hooved animals and their products in and out of Zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a & 8, the acting Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare, his counterpart Acting Minister of Environment, Wildlife & Tourism Mabuse Pule, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Joshua Moloi, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Kefentse Motshegwa and other government officials visited the areas of Sepako and Dukwi respectively on a mission to consult with communities regarding the invasion of the places by buffalos.
Minister Gare alluded that they have been sent by the President of Botswana, who is equally worried by the current situation. He noted that the affected areas have a total of around 300000 cattle and if the situation goes unchecked, there might be detrimental effects on the economy of this country.
He encouraged the communities to help government going forward by reporting any spotted buffalos in their areas, emphasizing that buffalos are dangerous and can kill people and that care should be exercised at all times.
The Director of Veterinary Services mentioned that they closed the above mentioned zones to allow for testing of buffalos & cattle for foot & mouth disease. The wildlife department’s Director Mr. Moremi Batshabang assured farmers and the community that they will eliminate small clusters of buffalos found within communities and translocate larger clusters to ensure their safety.