The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) finds it necessary to provide factual information to correct media information which could result in serious misinterpretations and misunderstandings that might arise out of the articles and editorials in The Monitor dated Monday 20th March 2017.
l The Ministry does not own a jet, nor has it ever owned one. The Ministry does have several aircraft which include fixed wing and a helicopter, we suppose it is one of these which is being referred to as a ‘luxurious jet’. Referring to any of these aircraft as a jet is highly misleading to the public and other stakeholders.
l These aircraft were purchased to facilitate the management of wildlife. They are used by Department of Wildlife and National Parks officers and other Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism personnel when addressing wildlife conservation related issues including stakeholder meetings, monitoring wildlife translocation and law enforcement exercises. The Minister being the political head of the Ministry has the right to use any Ministry aircraft as a mode of transport in discharging his Ministerial responsibilities and mandate of environmental conservation. As it is the case with other Ministries operating Government owned aircraft, the aircraft are available to other Ministries who need the similar services. In this regard 12 other Ministries have utilized some of these aircraft in the last year.
l Of the aircraft procured in the last 2 years, the open tender which was advertised in the Government gazette, amounted to P42 million, which is far less than the purported P300 million reported by the media.
l The Ministry is also concerned by the continued comments that the Minister is setting up his own intelligence unit. The Intelligence Unit in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has been in existence since the late 1980’s.
It was set up primarily to investigate
l The issue of the Ministry buying weapons of war is also misleading. Wildlife rangers and officers all over the world carry weapons, this is part and parcel of wildlife management, particularly now when poaching levels have been growing at alarming rates in most parts of the world.
The environment in which wildlife officers operate requires that they have protection, not only for themselves but also for communities and tourists who interact with these animals. The weapons are also needed for self defence during anti-poaching patrols where they sometimes encounter irate animals and armed poachers. There is also need to upgrade these from time to time as done with all equipment.
l The article further suggests that events undertaken by the ministry are wasteful. The events undertaken by the Ministry are meant to diversify the tourism product in Botswana and grow local tourism. The direction to expand events driven tourism was recommended by the Botswana Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) to fulfill the objectives of economic diversification.
l Allegations that the Ministry is targeting the army and other security agencies are absurd. The Ministry hires any Motswana who has the appropriate skills and qualifications as required.
l The Ministry remains willing to answer questions and clarify on issues that pertain to its operations as long as issues of environment or wildlife security are not compromised. We respect newspaper opinions, which are balanced and not misleading.
Rule J. Opelo
Ag Permanent Secretary