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We hear of the elephants, but what of the communities?

LAWRENCE OOKEDITSE
THE STALLION

The elephants have become a major factor again with the white paper on their management after issues of their overstocking. While it has quickly become a debate between the West and its perceived stooges in Botswana versus ‘patriots’ in Botswana, there is a middle ground to it; a real problem.

That problem is failure or refusal to invest in affected communities. S then, Mr. President, we are happy with the White Paper and your institution of consultations- your people are there were getting the feeling that we cared more about the animals then about them because even in the event of damage they get very little compensation.

The outcry would be less if compensation was commensurate with damage done. It would be less if the same investments tourism safari companies make into protecting their own facilities were being invested by them and government into protecting community assets and installations. But no one seems to care about this.

Our people suffer because they do not have the luxury of encountering these animals from the relative comfort and safety of a safari four wheel drive as do most of those in the West who finished their own animals and are now busy with activism on other nations’ animals. Our people bear the brunt of the wildlife so many of you find fascinating- but our communities are not the major beneficiaries from the money that comes from your glee and fascination with those animals. We do not want them exterminated, but we want a fair deal- that is the view of our people.

I am from a part of the country where elephants routinely do damage. The herds have grown evidently because these days elephants are all over in our area. We are a victim of our own success in a way- larger herds in the wild, being a country that provides relative safe sanctuary against poachers and hunters among others have meant more elephants come to our shores. You hardly ever used to see elephants on your way to Sowa from Dukwi, now they’re a constant feature along that road- whole herds now live here. A stone throw away from these herds you have an utterly impoverished community at Njuutsha.

At Njuutshaa, a lot of people are cattle herders. Many more are unemployed and have to subsist on food rations from government- but these get stopped and started depending on how the local government feels anyway- no one seems to really care. The people here are poor. They are called remote area dwellers even though they are hardly 20 kilometers from Sowa, and just about 15 kilometers or less from Dukwi. The stubborn refusal to bring service to these people, their name tagging and definition as remote by local authorities aside, there is nothing remote about them.

For generations now, this community lived off the land. But the land has now become smaller due to encroachment and the settler colony of the marauding elephants. For our people here, going out in the evening to drive cattle back to their kraals, or going into the wild for tubers and fruit has become a dreaded chore. After all, before going far, you encounter these jumbo mammals. This is not our only affected community- I am pointing out the twin dangers of poverty and neglect of some communities juxtaposed with encroachment by elephants in particular for poor communities. Their problems are only worsened.

And it does not help that most of these herd cattle for absentee cattle barons- and failure to drive cattle back to their corrals overnight may mean stock losses. And stock losses are not taken kindly by employers. In reality then, these communities are seeking a living under already perilous conditions, the addition of elephants to their foibles only worsens their misery. They have become les miserabeles when they ought not to be.

If you think this is a sick joke, go to Manxotae, a village off the shoulder of Nata.  You will find a man named Boipuso who was attacked by an elephant at dusk while returning from securing cattle for the night- today, he depends on food rations form government and is paralyzed from the waist downwards. A productive man has been rendered impotent at just about everything he used to thrive at.

This is the other side of the story, and it is not even the whole story. Ask any farmer who has had a ploughing field raided by elephants. Theirs is to look at what remains but a wasteland and just weep. Weep for you know there will be almost zero compensation from the ‘owners of the animals’ being government. This is where the problem is. In reality, the major problem is not the mere presence of elephants- the problem is the destruction caused and what follows as compensation.

We do not want the elephant killed, we want to be relatively secured from them. We know their value, but we also know their levels of destruction. They roam closer to homes and farms in larger numbers than we have seen before. But we also know the value of wildlife.
Re-introducing hunting in controlled ways would not be a very bad thing to do. It is not ideal, but something must be done. Re-introduce hunting, monitor and then when a certain threshold is reached you stop.

That may traumatize heads as research shows, and my heart breaks. But what could be done? Letting things be as they are is not an option- unless we allow the citizens to fight back as they may if elephants encroach. But as it is, an animal is more protected than a
The Directorate n Intelligence and Security Services (that is what our people at Sepako say) routinely ensnares and severely punish anyone who so much as lifts a finger against a wild animal. The animal is more protected than the people- yet the same animals sometimes raid near DIS camps- and the DIS as per the tales of our people just slumber and won’t make effort to drive the animals away.

Another option is for the tourism industry and the world (since the world so much cares about conservation): pump money into barriers to protect our people. Farms are in designated areas. If government wishes and the world also so wishes, you literally could cordon off farming areas that are at risk- the same way safari companies are able to protect their water installations and other assets from elephants.

So far, we have failed our communities. We have failed to offer farmers compensation for destruction by wild animals. We reap money from tourism as a country and reinvest that money in other parts of the country, but we terribly fail the communities that live with the animals. If some intelligent statistician or economist was to make a breakdown of a portion of investment government puts into our communities you’d find that it’s a pittance compared to other parts of the country.

We live with the animals. We are not allowed to kill them but they have not read the same laws- they kill us and destroy our crops and other valuables. Since they’re owned by government, it would only be fair that government compensation is reasonable. But your cow may be killed by a leopard and they’d give you P300 as compensation- a cow is worth up to P5000 in the open markets.

As mentioned on victims of elephant attacks, the state does nothing for these people that is closing to giving them back their normal lives- they get the usual destitute rations. But they were able bodied and able to provide more for themselves previously. Suddenly they are thrown into destitution by government and her animals. Why then should they care? Tell me. They are hurt and easily get depressed watching life pass them by as a result of some animal attack.

So then, start paying attention to campaigns for better compensation for victims of these animals; pay attention to struggles for better livelihoods for communities who live near or with wildlife. Protect us or allow us to protect and repay ourselves in the event of damage by your animals. We have hearts and we do not want to see animals suffer. But they make us suffer- you have the money and technology to end the suffering but you care more about the money than about victims.

By the way did you know? A dam was to be built at Mosetse. It never was. Big excuse was that the river takes fresh water to The Makgadikgadi pans and damming it would reduce inflows of fresh water and perhaps disturb the wildlife. Utter nonsense. So the people should have hard salty and unpalatable water right? And the animals fresh water? President Masisi has his job cut out for him, but he should know the people out there appreciate the consultations and possibility of finding a good solution.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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