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Fishy Deals

SANDY GRANT
There were two garbled reports in last week’s Mmegi Monitor which caused me concern and a degree of confusion - the first on Lake Ngami which began with a sentence which, slightly shortened, was impossible to understand.

It stated that,  the sustainable land management project undertaken by the UNDP has funded the feasibility study to establish a fish processing plant.

Work that out! It then reported that the government has facilitated a fish export deal with Zambia and followed up by referring to the lake management plan which envisages chalets, camp sites and water skiing. There then emerged other actors, the Lake Ngami Community Development Trusts (plural?) and the Lake Ngami Fishing Cluster and, not least, Lebonaamang Mokalake, the High Commissioner in Lusaka who was here recently to meet the fishing fraternity. 

In other words, everyone and his aunt seems to be involved and tripping over each other even though the report made no mention of the District Council or Tribal Authority.

It does come as a surprise, though, to learn that any High Commissioner or Ambassador can wander so far off base to undertake a job that used to be handled by District Commissioners. But at Lake Ngami it appears that almost anything goes. There are, it appears, government plans, UNDP plans, management plans, and a general free for all with everyone trying to get their hands on the goodies.  But I cannot be the only person in this country to have not the slightest grasp as to what is truly the situation there – for which I do blame our reporters.

What I know, or think I know, is that Lake Ngami flooded in 1971 after years of being dry. After thirty or so more dry years, it again flooded –– and there have ben several reports of a fishing bonanza with Zambians to the fore in mining this new abundant resource, and also of people being tragically drowned.

But now that there is to be an expensive fish processing plant and luxury lodges, can we please know for how long it is anticipated that the Lake will survive without replenishment from the Boteti? What are the projected flow patterns for the Boteti in the next twenty years taking account of climate change and the anticipated increased heat and decreased rainfall. Logically, we should all be on common ground about such very basic questions. But evidently this is not so.

But now switch to the Monitor’s second report - on the P120 million Lobatse milk project which is being mooted as yet another of those which are  going to solve all our problems.  Spend enough cash

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and we have got it beat! But does it ever work out that way?

The Monitor report was unfortunately another of that kind which prompts controversy about its meaning. One reader believed that the now jump-started project had been held back by delays in completing the Environmental Impact Assessment whilst another understood that the project had finally taken off even though the EIA has never even been started.

Nevertheless, what did we learn from this report? That fifteen students have been sent to the USA – somewhere – ‘with each student being financed with funds amounting to more than P300, 000. Wow! But could this really have been individual or was it a total cost?

And who wouldn’t have wanted to have been one of those fortunate fifteen who were finally selected? But because there have been no previous reports, we are left to wonder how anyone in Lobatse knew that they could apply, to whom they should apply, what qualifications were expected of them, what agreements they had to sign before being taken on, and with whom were such agreements being made?

Anyway, the fifteen got the nod and off they went being presumably seen off at the SSK by appreciative Lobatse residents as well, perhaps, as the American Ambassador.  But who covered those training costs and who, indeed, has provided the P120 million - the government, Milk Africa, the Lobatse Council – or unknown investors?  The deal, however, is now done so why worry about the detail? But is it?

The Lobatse Council, said the Monitor report, ‘will own a 10% stake (and) is expected to house over 2,000 dairy cows’ although previous reports had stated that 1,000 would be flown in from the States. But what form will this 10% take and what precisely has been the Town Council’s contribution to Milk Africa which resulted in this seeming largesse? 

But then who or what is Milk Africa and why should the USA be involved when South Africa is next door? But for the Lobatse Council to go commercial with a 10% share in milk does seem to open up entirely new doors for all Councils.  Is this a positive new direction and if so, what should be the parameters?  Or is it something that should cause major concern? Perhaps we cannot know until the hard facts about this extraordinary deal are finally brought into the open.



Etcetera II

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