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.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.