In the wake of evidently declining wildlife numbers, former president Ian Khama imposed the ban in early 2014. Elephant numbers had plummeted by 15% in the preceding decade. The hunting industry had been granted a total quota of between 420 and 800 elephants a year during that time. Evidence of abuse was prolific and communities were not benefiting from the fees that hunters were paying.
Khama’s successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has been in the job for just over a year. He’s promoted a conservation doctrine that is diametrically opposed to Khama’s.
Masisi recently hosted a conference in Kasane that brought together heads of state and environment ministers from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its pretext was to formulate a common vision for managing southern Africa’s elephants under the banner of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). But the conference was used to drum up support for Botswana’s intended reversion to elephant hunting.
Tourism and Environment Minister, Kitso Mokaila, claimed that the country has too many elephants. This “overpopulation” narrative has also fuelled the idea that hunting – and even culling – will reduce growing human and elephant conflict.
But many believe that elephants have been reduced to a political football in Masisi’s election campaign to curry favour with rural communities who feel aggrieved over the hunting ban. The elections will be held in October this year.
A cabinet sub-committee report produced earlier this year recommended that the hunting ban be lifted. It therefore comes as no surprise that Masisi has done so.
At the conference, he gave elephant footstools to his fellow heads of state, a symbol of support for “consumptive use”. This is a conservation doctrine that endorses the exploitation of wildlife in the form of either trophy hunting or trade in derivative parts such as ivory.
A turn for the worst
The narrative that Botswana’s elephant population is exploding and has exceeded the country’s carrying capacity is repeatedly used to rationalise trophy hunting and the ivory trade. Mokaila claimed, for instance, that Botswana’s elephant population was at 160 000, nearly three times the “carrying capacity” of 54 000.
But a scientific aerial survey of northern Botswana – where the country’s elephants are concentrated – conducted in 2018 disputes this. The survey estimated a national population of 126 114, indicating stability since 2014. It also revealed a sharp increase in poaching. The survey report noted:
These results suggest there is a significant elephant-poaching problem in northern Botswana that has likely been going on for over a year.
The survey also found that nearly all carcasses suspected of being poached were bulls. Bulls are targeted for their large tusks. This suggests that Botswana is fast becoming a poaching hotspot for the growing demand for illicit ivory in East Asia.
If the country’s not careful, poaching will take root in the same way it has in Tanzania and Mozambique over the last decade.
Proponents argue that hunting “surplus” bull elephants reins in elephant numbers and provides direct jobs (and bushmeat) to local communities who live in the daily reality of growing human and wildlife conflict.
Arguments in favour of hunting invariably appeal to the obsolete idea of “carrying capacity” – that a landscape can only withstand the impact of a certain maximum number of elephants. But conservation scientists aren’t convinced that this applies in large, unfenced and highly variable ecosystems such as Botswana’s. Arguing, for instance, that an area can only sustain 0.4 elephants per square kilometres is arbitrary.
Adult bulls are also not surplus to herd requirements; they only breed successfully beyond the age of 35 and sire most of their young after 40. Hunting of a few select trophy males hardly contributes to population control. It is similarly unlikely to mitigate human and elephant conflict as it forces elephants to concentrate in smaller areas, making them more aggressive.
Either way, trophy hunting is in decline and its conservation efficacy is increasingly being questioned. Nonetheless, Masisi appears to have bought the narrative that well governed hunting is the silver bullet to conservation.
But hunting is hardly ever well governed and unethical players undermine the rationale behind a quota system. In an open system, incentives to over exploit one’s hunting quota are stronger than incentives to stick to the rules. This tends to result in a tragedy of the commons – over-exploitation of natural resources beyond the ecosystem’s maximum sustainable yield.
On top of this, the voices of communities benefiting from photographic tourism have not yet been heard. Photographic safaris are fundamentally more sustainable than trophy hunting. In 2018, tourism (mostly photographic and with no hunting) supported 84 000 jobs. By contrast, at its peak in 2009, hunting only supported 1000 jobs.
For a country that has been overly dependent on diamond rents, which are now in decline, Botswana cannot afford policy decisions that undermine its second largest economic sector.
Botswana’s former president, Ian Khama, has vowed not to rest until stability in his country is restored.
Speaking to City Press on Friday night at the Intercontinental Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport, he said he would be seeking external interventions, if need be, to bring his country back to normality.
Khama was preparing to catch a flight to attend an event in India – at Dharamshala, the residence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile.
Under Khama’s presidency, Botswana had been hailed for being a stable democracy.
However, the situation has recently destabilised under President Mokgweetsi Masisi ahead of the country’s general elections, set to take place in October.
At the centre of this instability has been political bickering between Masisi and Khama, who has publicly pronounced his support for ex-foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to contest Masisi for the presidency of the governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
The BDP will hold its elective congress in May where, for the first time, the party’s presidency will be contested.
Khama said he was recently invited to attend a meeting at the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Gaborone by chairperson Dr Hage Geingob, who is also the president of Namibia.
“He asked to see me so I can give my side of the story,” said Khama.
“He expressed concern as a neighbour, as the chairman of the SADC and as the president in the region. He expressed concern [about Botswana] precisely because of what we have been saying: that this is not what we expect of Botswana.
“I feel guilty because I am caught right in the middle of this ongoing problem, after having tried to move Botswana up the ladder in all areas. Now to have this thing, this burden...”
Khama said he would speak out in the same manner in which he had confronted former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe about the crisis in that country.
“I am not just going to lie idle and see us lose the ground that we have gained over the years,” he said.
Masisi’s administration, said Khama, was not supportive of his visit to India because of its cosy relations with China.
“Because of these new-struck relations [between] the current administration of Botswana and China, I think they feel they have to do China’s bidding and have succumbed to pressure from China to have no contact with people the Chinese do not like.”
Khama said he had not supported the stance of communist China against Tibet during his presidency. He has also been vocal about deals struck by African countries with the Chinese – which, he has warned, were brokered in China’s interests and not in the interests of African states.
“During my time as president, I felt that this was an affront to our sovereignty as a country and that we can’t be told who we can and cannot meet.
"As I said earlier on, this was particularly the case given that China is not a democracy like we are.
“On the other hand, you have His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, somebody who is only putting [out] there issues of peace, compassion and unity.
"Surely you cannot fault that. It is something that I have tried to follow in my life, so I can certainly find a lot more in common with the Dalai Lama than I can with the People’s Republic of China.”
Khama said his relations with Masisi’s government have deteriorated to such an extent, he has to constantly fight to receive some of his privileges as the former president, even though these are prescribed in the country’s Constitution.
He cited instances where he has been refused access to modes of transport, including aircraft, to enable him to carry out his community outreach programmes. He said he was not even invited to attend the Fallen Heroes’ Day commemoration event on February 27.
This, Khama said, was an attempt to frustrate him.
He added that people close to Masisi had told him that the president was misusing his powers to erode Khama and his family’s legacy. They also told him that Masisi felt insecure about Khama’s achievements, and the best way for him to act was to try “to erase [the insecurity] by erasing some of the policies that I was involved with, to try to isolate me from these kinds of national events, and not have any recognition of me at all”.
Speaking about tensions and divisions within his party, Khama said that recently in his home village, there was a large meeting of party members, who were upset about the developments in Botswana and had gathered to air their views.
However, a couple of days ago, a list of the names of those councillors who were present at the meeting and who support Venson-Moitoi was circulated, proposing that they be suspended for attending the meeting.
Khama said the meeting was not illegal because in Botswana freedom of assembly is guaranteed even by his party’s Constitution.
“If the councillors were to be suspended, I hear people say, all those who gathered there feel that there should be a mass walkout from the ruling party.
“But when you look at the names on the list, a lot of the councillors are delegates to the elective congress, which is set to take place in a few weeks – and they are all supporters of his [Masisi’s] opponent.
“So, by suspending them, they will be reducing the number of people who will be voting for her. We will see whether they will be suspended or not.
"But if they do get suspended, it will spark, I think, a revolt in parts of the party. I won’t rule out the possibility that there could be a split,” Khama said.
He warned that if there were to be a split, it would end the BDP’s chances of leading again as the majority party.
“If this thing continues for the next few months leading up to the general election, my assessment is that we would still be a party that has the most seats in Parliament but not enough to form a government, so we would have to go into a coalition. So, the BDP will lose an election.”
Khama said he was not feeling unsafe in Botswana but indicated that there had been reports of raids that were to be made on his home, which have not been carried out. Asked if he could be lobbied to enter politics again, Khama said he would turn his back on the people currently leading the party because he had never experienced before how people somersault in the way they have done now.
Source: City Press
Scientist Mike Chase says during a recent aerial wildlife survey he found the remains of 88 elephants at poaching hot spots in northern Botswana.
The aerial survey of northern Botswana by Elephants Without Borders revealed four poaching hot spots and 88 carcasses of elephants who showed signs of having been killed by poachers.
Since the last wildlife survey four years ago the number of carcasses has increased by 600%.
The government admits poaching takes place in Africa but disputes claims that the elephants were killed - sayng they died "from natural causes and retaliatory killings."
BBC News Africa
Botswana and Zambia have signed the agreement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) meant to create one African market.
The country signed the agreement at the just-ended Africa Union Summit. Zambia also signed the AfCFTA at the same event. Botswana and Zambia were among the countries that had not signed the AfCFTA following its establishment on 21 March 2018 in Rwanda, Kigali.
The delay was largely attributed to negotiation on some of the protocols of the AfCFTA, as the countries wanted to consult stakeholders before appending. Briefing journalists upon his return from the just-ended AU Summit, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said he signed the agreement in the presence of African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki, and outgoing AU chairperson, Paul Kagame.
He said the agreement would give Batswana the opportunity to “benefit from inter-regional trade within the African continent, and greatly contribute to the growth and diversification of our country’s economy.
“We have received the documents so that we can rectify the agreement,” he said.
Masisi said Botswana recognises the importance of the agreement as one that will liberalise trade of both goods and services for all African countries. The AfCFTA aims to create a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product of US$2.5 trillion, across all AU member states.
The Continental Free Trade Agreement would provide Botswana access to the African market estimated at 1.6 billion people in 55 countries. This means a wider and increased market access for Botswana exports; among which are live animals, beef, salt, vaccines for veterinary medicine, minerals and leather products.
Reports indicate that the AfCFTA envisages the liberalisation of both trade in goods and services in the first phase of negotiations, and will extend to investment, competition policy and intellectual property in the second phase. The decision to establish the AfCFTA was taken during the eighteenth Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2012 when the Heads of State and Government decided to establish a Pan-Africa Continental Free Trade Area by 2017.
According to Zambia News and Information Services, Zambian President Edgar Lungu said the country would now work towards ratifying the AfCFTA.
Zambia is already in wide free trade areas through the 16-member SADC and the 21-member Comesa trading blocs. But in a statement issued by the first press secretary at the Zambian mission in Addis Ababa after the signing, Inutu Mwanza said.
“The AfCFTA will help resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
“It will also help to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.”
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi sanctioned an impromptu meeting yesterday – dubbed a “special conference” – at the height of disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
He begged for reconciliation amid the warring factions ahead of the national congress and general elections later this year.
Masisi assured the members of the party that he was not afraid of dying. There had been talks of security threats made against him by the warring factions.
Tension among the factions had escalated following veteran politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intended to challenge Masisi for the presidential position.
Venson-Moitoi’s decision to throw her name into the hat for the presidential race had angered party members who were sympathetic to the president.
They regarded her as a proxy of former president Ian Khama.
There has been a feud between Masisi and Khama after he used his first state of the nation speech last year to openly attack Khama in an unprecedented clash.
Khama’s “no show” at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the impromptu meeting set tongues wagging among party members who are aware ofthe feud.
Khama later made a grand entrance, much to the amazement of party followers attending the meeting in Palapye, about 300km outside Gaborone.
Masisi had already delivered his opening speech when Khama arrived.
The meeting was seen as one of the platforms where the two could reconcile.
Masisi had appointed a team of elders, comprising, among others, former president Festus Mogae, to spearhead a mediation that had hit a snag.
Ahead of the meeting the party emphasised to invited members that only those who had been accredited would be allowed to attend – a move that was meant to deter chaos within the party and at the meeting.
Masisi was quick to point out in his opening speech that there wasa need for peace and unity in the party.
He emphasised the need for members to continue to work together peacefully.
He indicated that the feud between him and the former president had attracted wide condemnation from the international community who were unhappy about Botswana’s political climate.
The president noted that one of the prime ministers – whom he did not name – had shed tears about the political climate in Botswana.
“What are you doing in Botswana? Why are your damaging our reputation?” the prime minister had asked Masisi.
He noted that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had warned that there was a need for the country to continue peacefully, as it had in previous years.
Masisi shared Museveni’s message with those at the meeting.
“You are the salvation of Africa. If you don’t hold hands together, every criticism of our instability as a continent cannot be defended because Botswana would have sunk. You are the last hope,” Museveni had told Masisi.
Masisi noted the allegations that he had not acknowledged Venson-Moitoi, the challenger for presidential position.
“Venson-Moitoi has every right to want to be the president of the party – unusual as it might be.
“You get to be used to unusual things [as president]. Your responsibility is to decide what you want. You think I have a problem, but I do not,” said Masisi.
A number of party elders, such as Mogae, had endorsed him and castigated Venson-Moitoi for challenging the president.
Masisi asked members of the party not to fight over the candidates and said the best candidate would win.
“I don’t want members to fight,” he said, adding that the party would be the winner.
“I have never been afraid of a challenge,” he said.
He assured members of the ruling party that he was not out to fight with anyone.
He emphasised that his detractors within the party were happy that he had brought back dialogue in the country and that the Batswana people were known for consultation.
The president told members that he was not afraid to die. Some people had told him, he said, that developments in the country were a threat to his security.
“I met the businesspeople who were afraid for my safety. I told them that I don’t waste my time thinking I am going to die. It is certain that I am going to die. All of us, we are going die. We don’t know when and how,” said Masisi.
Source: City Express
The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.
The 2018 Passport Index has placed the Ugandan passport in the 11th position in Africa and 64th among passports of 198 nations of the world.
Uganda and Morocco share a passport power rank of 65, but are below East African neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, who lie in the eighth and ninth positions with respective passport ranked 62 and 63. The global passport power ranking is arrived at based on an assessment of the visa restrictions or visa-free score.
Kenya allows nationals of 39 countries to visit it without a visa and nationals of 32 other countries can obtain visas on arrival. It is nationals of 127 other countries of the world that require visas to visit Kenya.
Nationals of 42 countries do not require visas to visit Tanzania and those from another 28 countries can get the visas on arrival, while nationals of 128 nations require visas to enter the country.
Uganda is not doing as well as its two neighbours as citizens of 130 countries require visas to enter the country. It only allows nationals of 35 countries to visit without visas and gives nationals of 33 countries visas on arrival.
The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South African and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.
The global ranking
Same position. In the global ranking, Uganda is tied with Morocco, the Philippines, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.
Number one. The global rankings are led by the United Arab Emirates, which has a passport power rank of 2. UAE is visa-free for nationals of 113 nations and gives nationals of 54 countries visas on arrival. Only nationals of 31 countries are required to have visas before entering UAE.
Second place. Tied in second place are Germany and Singapore, which have a passport power rank of 3.
Visa free. Singapore is visa-free for nationals of 127 countries and gives nationals of 39 countries visas on arrival. Citizens of only 32 nations are required to have visas before visiting Singapore.
Visa exception. Germany on the other hand is visa-free for nationals of 126 nations and gives nationals of 40 nations visas on arrival. It is only nationals of 32 countries that are required to have visas.
Botswana’s central bank has urged the government to overhaul the southern African nation’s tax regime and prepare the economy for declining contributions from diamonds.
Botswana relies on the gemstones for almost a fifth of its gross domestic product and used the revenue generated from sales to transform the nation from an economic backwater into one of the continent’s wealthiest societies. However, their role is set to diminish over the next 20 years and successive governments have struggled to diversify the economy.
Although the government has been able to finance most investment projects from diamond sales, “there is recognition that growth in diamond revenues has plateaued and might recede in the future,” the Bank of Botswana said in a study published Friday as part of its annual report. “It is thus important to explore alternative and sustainable sources of financing for public infrastructure.”
Specific tax reforms include removing widespread exemptions on value-added tax and investor concessions, the bank said. “We have recommended the expansion of the tax base through, among others, reducing the number of VAT-exempted items and replacing these with targeted social transfers,” said Tshokologo Kganetsano, director of research and financial stability.
Botswana has VAT exemptions on a range of items including agriculture inputs, basic food items and medicine. It also has several long-standing tax concessions for investors, including the International Financial Services framework that provides for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, rather than the standard 22 percent, and conditional exemptions on capital gains tax, withholding tax and other rates.
“Research on investment incentives suggests that tax concessions are often of little value in attracting genuine long-term investment,” the bank said. “Investment tax credits or accelerated depreciation allowances are preferable and more effective.”
Ian Khama, a retired army general, stepped down as president of Botswana on Saturday, handing the diamond-rich country to his deputy after a decade at the helm.
Mokgweetsi Masisi becomes only the third leader to take charge of the southern African nation outside the Khama political dynasty that has dominated national politics since independence from Britain in 1966. Masisi, 55, inherits a country that has for decades been heralded as a beacon of African democracy and sound economic management but faces a huge task of reducing the country’s dependence on diamonds.
“I am not sure about his competency in as far as the economy is concerned, but if he has the respect of his ministers then he should be able to make them deliver,” said political analyst Ndulamo Anthony Morima.
Masisi, a trained teacher who has also worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund as an education project officer for eight years until 2003, was elected lawmaker in 2009. He served in the president’s office as a minister of public affairs from 2011 until 2014 when Khama named him minister of education, a post he held until appointed vice president last year.
“The business community sees him as being more business-friendly so that should work well for the economy. He seems to be more likely to come up with regulation that enables more economic activity,” said RMB Botswana economist Moatlhodi Sebabole.
Masisi takes office more than a year before the election under Botswana’s constitution that restricts the president to serving two five-year terms. Khama, son the son of Botswana’s first president, Seretse, also took over from Festus Mogae a year before the 2009 election.
One of the world’s poorest countries in the 1970s, Botswana transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies by harnessing around $3 billion a year in diamond sales, to become one of the world’s biggest producers, and gained middle-income status.
But dependence on its wealth from the diamond industry might be catching up with the landlocked country of just two million after the collapse in commodity prices in 2014 tipped its economy into recession three years ago.
“He is well versed with current challenges that the country is facing and I am sure he is quite capable of delivering,” said Mothusi Sename, a 41-year-old taxi driver in Gaborone, referring to Masisi.
END OF POLITICAL DYNASTY?
Khama’s departure leaves his younger brother and tourism minister Tshekedi as the only member of the family holding a high-profile post in the government, and depending on who Masisi picks as vice president, it would be the first time a Khama is not part of the top tier of national leadership.
Khama, a 65-year old bachelor, is known as a straight talker having publicly criticised leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump for an alleged slur against African countries and then-president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for overstaying his welcome.
Khama was born in Britain after his father a married a white British woman Ruth Williams, defying convention and opposition in Africa and Britain. Their story was depicted in the 2016 film ‘A United Kingdom’.
His party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is expected to name Masisi as its presidential candidate for next year’s election.
Anthrax has been detected in dead hippos floating in the Okavango River, officials in Botswana said, after more than 100 of the animals were suspected to have been killed by the disease in neighboring Namibia.
Botswana's Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism advised people not to touch the dead hippos and to report any sightings of hippo carcasses.
The Okavango Delta is a major tourist attraction in southern Africa, supporting a diverse range of wildlife.
Namibian media reported on Monday that more than 100 hippos had died in the remote Bwabwata National Park, in the northeastern part of the country, with anthrax the suspected cause. The Okavango River flows through Namibia before entering Botswana. Tourism is important for the economies of both countries.