Botswana backtracks stance on ivory sales

18 Jan 2019

In a move seen as reversing some of former President Ian Khama’s policies, Botswana under the leadership President Mokgweetsi Masisi has climbed down on its earlier decision not to support the sales of ivory.

The sales of ivory is one of the topical issues to be discussed at the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting scheduled to take place in May in Sri Lanka.

During Khama’s reign, his administration which promoted photographic tourism after banning hunting saw the country breaking ranks with neighbouring southern African member States that supported limited ivory trade by backing a proposal to close the ivory trade in its entirety.

In what is expected to shock many, Botswana has recently joined forces with Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to open up ivory markets by being party to the proposal that was sent recently to CITES secretariat by the other three countries.

On its website, CITES stated that the countries which are parties to the international organization should have submitted their proposals before end of 24 December 2018.

This coincided with President Masisi’s Cabinet reshuffle which saw the Minister responsible for Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, being transferred to the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture, a move seen as loosening the Khama brothers grip on the tourism industry.

In their proposal, a copy of which has been seen by The Telegraph, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe accuse CITES of acting as an “inhibitor and not an enabler of progress.”

They are calling for a number of amendments to certain controls by CITES.  The four nations want ivory trade restrictions to be relaxed to allow for trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes and trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations for Botswana and Zimbabwe and for conservation programmes for Namibia and South Africa.

They also propose that there should be trade in hides, trade in hair, and trade in leather goods for commercial or non-commercial purposes for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and for non-commercial purposes for Zimbabwe.

The four nations further urged CITES to allow for trade in individually marked and certified incorporated in finished jewellery for non- commercial purposes for Namibia and ivory carvings for non-commercial purposes for Zimbabwe.

They are also calling for trade in registered raw ivory (for Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, whole tusks and pieces as long they are subjected to the following: only registered government-owned stocks, originating in the State (excluding seized ivory and ivory of unknown origin).

They further want to trade in ivory with only to trading partners that have been verified by the Secretariat, in consultation with the Standing Committee, to have sufficient national legislation and domestic trade controls to ensure that the imported ivory will not be re-exported and will be managed concerning domestic manufacturing and trade.

They also want trade in some of the goods not be done before the Secretariat has verified the prospective importing countries and the registered government-owned stocks.

“The Conference of the Parties (CITES) has repeatedly discounted the importance of the Southern African elephant population and its conservation needs against other regions in Africa,” the document also reads in part.

The document further states that the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are an anomaly in CITES.

The four nations also informed CITES that it “should recognize that it has to operate within the overall international governance framework, which includes due recognition of the rights of local people to development and the right to make decisions over the resources that people depend on.”