In June this year, the government of Botswana took a deliberate decision to dehorn its wild rhinoceros population in order to save the nearly extinct animals from poachers. At the time, Department of Wildlife and National Parks had reported that at least 56 rhinos were killed in the last two years for their horns, which according to studies, a rhino horn can rake in high profits on the Asian black markets.
In a media statement released by Rhino Conservation Botswana in March 2020, it is reported that despite significant anti- poaching efforts, the rhino poaching onslaught continues unabated in Botswana with 47 rhinos lost to poachers over the last 12 months. This has devastated Botswana’s rhino population and set back the work of Rhino Conservation Botswana significantly.
“For the past two decades we have worked with the Government of Botswana and private sector partners to bring rhinos from high poaching areas in South Africa and Zimbabwe into Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
Here we have been closely monitoring the rhinos, enabling their populations to grow at one of the highest rates ever achieved, adding to the global population of these highly endangered animals”. In June 2020 the government of Botswana took a decision to re-arm its wildlife rangers as they faced battles in increased cases of poaching. In the last six months, at least 17 poachers have been killed in gunfire exchanges with the army. According to media reports, government had disarmed wildlife rangers in 2018, saying that under the law, only the military was allowed the use of firearms during anti- poaching patrols.
With the country having currently lost 58 rhinoceros to poachers in the last two years, the government is considering backtracking on the decision it took. At the material time Wildlife and Tourism Minister, Philda Kereng recently told parliament the government is amending the law that prevented the rangers from carrying weapons.
National Geographic reports that the rhinos’ destination in Botswana remains confidential. “All I can say is we are taking the necessary measures to protect our rhinos,” says Cyril Taolo, acting Director of Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Taolo declined to provide specific information about the evacuation. “I’m not in a position to talk about any details regarding ongoing operations.”
Dereck Joubert, who leads the Botswana non-profit Rhinos Without Borders with his wife, Beverly Joubert, emphasized that poaching incidents in Botswana- of both elephants and rhinos- have been increasing during the past couple of years. The lucrative rhino horn trade in the region is controlled by international criminal syndicates, this is according to wildlife experts.
Last year, poachers slaughtered more than two dozen rhinos throughout Botswana, and already that number has been surpassed during the first four months of 2020, Dereck Joubert notes. However, Joubert still considers Botswana to be one of the safest places in Africa for rhinos. “While we mourn every rhino that gets killed, and every elephant for that matter, it needs to be seen in context,” he says. “The Botswana numbers are still relatively low.”
“Every time there’s a blood moon or a full moon in Africa everyone involved in conservation—particularly conservation of rhinos—shivers,” said Joubert. In August 2020 Botswana started dehorning rhinos and moving them to new locations in a bid to fend off poachers.
Rhino Conservation Botswana said they have always anticipated that word of Botswana’s healthy rhino populations would get out, but this sudden and intense poaching onslaught was not expected. Botswana is under rapid attack from highly organized international criminal syndicates who employ African poachers with bush experience to poach.
It is poverty that enables poaching in Africa, and the high price paid for a rhino horn is a major incentive for poachers to undertake risky incursions into the deep wilderness of the Okavango Delta. Rhino poaching is driven by demand from an increasingly wealthy middle-class in Asia where rhino horn is illegally traded on the black market, largely as a symbol of wealth and status. “It is our hope that China’s recent ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals in response to the Covid-19 viral epidemic will reduce demand for rhino horn, but this waits to be seen.”
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.