A storm has erupted over the government’s decision to hand Johan Calitz, a South African wildife trophy hunter and associate of Bostwana’s former environment and wildlife minister Kitso Mokaila, the exclusive right to hunt in a wildlife-rich area of northern Botswana.
The flashpoint is a directive from the permanent secretary in the ministry of wildlife, Oduetse Koboto, earlier this year ordering the Mababe Community Development Trust, near Maun, to work with Calitz’s company, African Field Sports (AFS).
Koboto was appointed by Mokaila when the latter was environment minister last year. He has since left the portfolio. The ministry’s directive prompted complaints from the Mababe village chief, Kgosimontle Kebuelemang, that the community had gained nothing from a previous engagement with Calitz.
In addition, a rival operator has challenged the ministry’s decision in the Gaborone High Court. In its papers, Safari Partners argues that other communities have disposed of their animals by auction or open tender, and that the unique favouring of AFS in Mababe should be reversed.
It is alleged that Calitz paid for Mokaila and two board members of the Mababe trust to travel to Reno in the United States to attend a conference of the hunting organisation Safari Club International, as well as another meeting in Dallas, Texas, at which the Mababe hunting quota was discussed.
Mokaila’s predecessor in the environment portfolio, Tshekedi Khama, told INK that Mokaila had introduced Calitz to him while he was minister and that he knew they were working together.
According to the South African non-profit organisation, Conservation Action Trust, Calitz had his licence suspended in 2001 because of the allegedly unlawful conduct of his company during a buffalo hunt. The details of the offence are not known.
He declined to answer any questions when approached by the INK Centre for Investigative Journalism. The current controversy follows last year’s decision by Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi to lift a five-year ban on hunting imposed by former president Ian Khama in 2015, on grounds that local communities are not reaping any benefit.
Under the new system a community is given a quota of animals that it can sell to hunting operations. Under an environment ministry directive of March 2, the Mababe community trust was told to issue African Field Sports ten licences to hunt a total of 94 animals, including 20 elephants.
In a letter seen by INK, permanent secretary Koboto said: “The … hunting quota is available to Mababe … to utilise on behalf of the community but [it] will be working with the team identified by Ministry to engage African Field Sports to ensure that the community gets a fair and market value for the quota.”
Questions have been raised about Calitz’s relationship with certain board members of the Mababe trust, particularly its chairperson, Itumeleng Mogodu. In November last year Mogodu and another board member, Mmokoki Ditirwa, signed a memorandum of understanding with Calitz giving AFS exclusive rights to the 2020 hunting quota.
According to Chief Kebuelemang, this constituted a violation of the Mababe community’s deed of trust because the memorandum was signed without the community’s consent.
Under the MOU, AFS will pay the community about US$1 500 for an elephant. A 2020 price list from Johan Calitz Safaris, an AFS subsidiary, shows it sells a single elephant for $70 000 – excluding fees and taxes – to trophy hunters.
According to Kebuelemang, who is also a board member of the trust, Mogodu appointed Mokaila a “consultant” to the community. Kebuelemang also said that Calitz paid for Mokaila, Mogodu and Ditirwa to travel to the US in January this year.
The four had attended Safari Club International’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada, where the honour of “best legislator” was bestowed on President Masisi. Kebuelemang said the four also travelled to another meeting in Dallas, Texas, to “discuss, among other things, the award of the Mababe hunting quota”.
Mokaila declined numerous requests for comment, urging INK to “write whatever you want”. Calitz said through his secretary that he would not respond to media questions relating to Mababe.
But in an interview, Tshekedi Khama said he is not surprised that Mababe has become “a portal for self-enrichment”. He said Mokaila introduced him to Calitz in 2016 when he was minister of tourism, adding: “I knew that he was working with Calitz.”
Kebuelemang told INK that the community and other hunting operations preferred an open tender or auction in the allocation of hunting licences. He said he suspects the government was arm-twisted by “politicians who previously opposed hunting and are now assisting trophy hunters to identify local markets”.
He said that during the hunting ban, Calitz held a license on the Mababe community’s quota which expired in January last year. The South African also had a lease agreement with the community including a joint venture to run other businesses such as safari camps and a lodge.
However, the community had seen no benefit from these. When the Khama administration imposed the hunting ban Calitz had disappeared from Mababe village. “We only see this man when the hunting ban was lifted, and the manner in which he is coming back is worrying,” Kebuelemang said.
Sources in the wildlife and national parks department, who asked to remain anonymous said Mokaila had overlooked qualified and experienced officers when he appointed Koboto director of wildlife. In 2015 the new environment minister, Tshekedi Khama, sacked him because “I didn’t think he was the right person”.
Koboto was returned as deputy permanent secretary in 2019 after Masisi appointed Mokaila environment minister. Koboto refused to comment. Asked about her relationship with Mokaila, Mogodu confirmed that he is a consultant to the community who has helped them navigate the complex sale of elephants to trophy hunters. She said the US trip was necessary, as it benefited the community to acquire knowledge about hunting.
Mogodu confirmed that the community trust has another joint venture with Calitz in Mogotho Lodge. It is a business partnership in which the community has a shareholding in the lodge. Asked about allegations that she had violated the Mababe deed of trust, Mogodu said the board is empowered to make decisions without consulting the community.
She added that the community needs to continue working with Calitz’s AFS to create more employment, and accused Kebuelemang of fronting for other business interests. She did not elaborate. In his letter to the Mababe Community Development Trust, Koboto warned that the trust would have to be investigated in connection with alleged corruption.
He did not provide details. However, the Mababe community trust’s book of accounts, which INK has seen, shows that the trust has debts amounting to P3.7-million and that 21 of its employees, who work at the Dizhana campsite and Mogotho Lodge, in the Okavango Delta had not been paid salaries for three years.
The trust has a 10% stake in the lodge. The book of accounts shows that the trust is “marred with issues of poor governance.” It also indicates that the trust has not paid P4-million in taxes it has owed since 2017. The revenue service reduced the liability to P970 000, but was still unable to recoup the money.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.