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Broke Tourism Ministry fails to pay the dead

OARABILE MOSIKARE MBONGENI MGUNI
Government seems to protect wildlife more than humans
The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENRCT), Tshekedi Khama has admitted that his Ministry is so broke that it cannot even pay compensation for the nine people killed by wild animals.

In a candid interview yesterday, Khama said according to policy, the Ministry is supposed to pay P50,000 for each person killed by animals and P20,000 for funeral expenses.

“In the last financial year, for our compensation budget we requested for P10 million but received about P4 million. Some people who had property damaged by wildlife were not paid. We have not paid nine people who lost their lives due to animal attacks,” Khama revealed.

He added: “It is not nice to owe deceased people. I find that frustrating”.

Khama said the Finance Ministry officials had advised his Ministry to secure the balance by looking for “savings” within other allocations. Eventually the Ministry secured the savings by suspending projects, almost totally, thus raising another P6 million. But the funds were still not enough to compensate families of the deceased, due to the high claims for damage done by wildlife.

“I don’t accept a solution of finding savings within your budget when it comes to people’s lives.”

“We are talking about people’s lives and damage caused, but the story we get is that we should find the funds from slow moving projects. We have had to postpone projects such as the Kasane anti-poaching camp and many others,” he said.

Khama said to get additional funding from the Ministry of Finance is a mammoth task because of its “archaic and inflexible budget system”.

“This financial arrangement does not work. It is not flexible. Our Ministry is the second biggest contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Ministry has not been capacitated to appreciate what we are contributing.”

He also confirmed that the Central Transport Organisation (CTO) has been refusing to fuel the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP)’s fleet of vehicles due to unserviced debt.

Mmegi is reliably informed that the DWNP owes the CTO about P4 million from an initial P7.5 million bill for fuel and lubricants debt.

Since January 25, 2017 the heavilyindebted department’s fleet have been grounded, stalling anti-poaching operations and potentially giving poachers room to operate unhindered.

“We have been informed about the issue and there is nothing we can do about the situation. We

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fear that with no vehicles to patrol the game parks the poachers are having a field day,” said a source in the Department. He disclosed that their superiors approached the police to assist with transport, but were spurned.

“We owe CTO money,” Khama said, yesterday.

“The recurrent budget for my Ministry in the last budget was P615 million and in this financial year the Finance Ministry only gave us P2 million more.

“Meanwhile climate change means additional work required on the ground, with animals roaming into areas they were never seen before, stretching the dept’s activities.

“We have since asked for sekoloto from the CTO so that we pay them off in the next financial year and the Transport Ministry has agreed.”

“The Ministry of Finance gives us ceilings which are based on historical expenditure. These ceilings are also dictated and they tell you that you have to prioritise your budget. We did not have the means to pay CTO.”

In the absence of fuel, Khama said the Department was forced to “slow down” its anti-poaching activities as it found itself in a situation where it had fleet and anti-poaching equipment, but no fuel to conduct patrols.

“The equipment should be like a museum. Fortunately, we have a reputation or position that’s known to be less than accommodating to poachers and people tend to stay away.

“For the most part, it has worked for us. Also, we engage communities because they are the ones that become our eyes and ears.

“They also benefit through the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Networks, receiving a levy from the tourism concessions.”

The anti-poaching efforts were also helped by the Botswana Defence Force and Directorate of Intelligence and Security, who form part of the patrols and intelligence gathering.

Botswana is globally viewed as the final haven for endangered species such as rhino, particularly black rhino, as well as elephants.

The country’s conservation and aggressive anti-poaching efforts have attracted translocations from throughout the continent.

However, the sustainability of operations is threatened by poor international support as many donors view the country as a middle-income or already established in terms of anti-poaching activities.



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