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The Minister of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife Tshekedi Khama this week broke ranks with President Lt Gen Ian Khama over the controversial mining of the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve.
The Minister this week broke his silence on the controversy and questioned the wisdom of awarding a mining license to Gaghoo diamond mine inside the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve.
Responding to questions from journalists during a press briefing on the outcome of the Climate Change Negotiations (COP), Khama wondered if awarding the licence to the diamond mining company was worth the trouble.
“The way the mine is set up, it speaks for itself. We have seen diamond prices drop. Is this mine worth it? We need to be environmentally sensitive. It is a fine balance that we need to look at,” said Khama.
He added that “we cannot have degradation of land because of mining, no.”
The opening of the mine last year September on Basarwa ancestral land, nearly a decade after the government stated there were no plans to mine the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was not without controversy.
President Lt Gen Ian Khama however insisted that the controversy over the diamond mine in a disputed Basarwa ancestral land was being driven by people who differed with government’s approach to development and were bent on tarnishing Botswana’s image. President Khama said this when officially opening the mine last year.
The views by the President’s brother and Minister of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife Tshekedi Khama come across as a break from what is believed to be the government’s official position as presented by president Khama during the opening of the mine.
Over the years, Basarwa argued that they were being relocated from the CKGR to make way for diamond mining while the government of Botswana on the other hand insisted that there were no plans to mine the CKGR.
Ghagoo diamond mine is the first underground mine in Botswana. Gem Diamonds which owns the mine said at the time the mine was officially opened that it has undergone a series of extensive studies and assessment of relating to the environment communities and broader social impacts of the mine which will provide a critical framework to ensure that the mine operates to the most stringent of international standards.
Answering a question from a journalist who wanted to know if the government does not consider banning second hand cars imported from Asian countries to reduce carbon emissions, Khama said “these vehicles coming outside Botswana are a double sword.”
He said the vehicles have benefited a considerable number of Batswana since they are affordable. Khama said apart from imported second hand vehicles, there are some local vehicles which are old and contribute to carbon emissions. He took issue with the country’s transport system saying it is wanting in many aspects.
“Is our transport system suitable, is it of required standard, no it is not. We should have a good transport system. Let’s ensure that the emissions from these cars are of acceptable standard,” he said.
The minister also expressed concern about littering in the country saying this was a serious challenge to the country’s tourism sector.
“We cannot sell the country to tourists when people dump litter willy-nilly. We need to be responsible. There is no regard for the environment. The garbage that people dump willy-nilly is likely to find its way in to the water system,” said Khama.
Khama said plans are underway to cut coal usage in power generation by the year 2025. According to Khama there is need to have a mix of 25 percent of coal and renewable resources to protect the environment and keeping the financial aspect of the coal industry going.
“With coal those people who burn coal are not interested in renewable energy and that is why this ministry is very important. The regulation of power does not sit under this ministry, but we have to inform Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs that it is important now to seriously consider alternative forms of power. We have to have a mix,” said Khama.
On the outcomes of the Climate Change Negotiations that were held in Paris, Khama said the summit adopted an agreement which will be implemented effective 1st January 2021. The summit agreed to keep global temperature rises o below 2 degrees with an effort to limit temperature rises to less than 1.5 degrees; commitments of US $100 Billion per annum in climate finance by 2020 with a commitment of more finance to be availed thereafter.
“The outcomes give us comfort in that as we strive to implement climate change initiatives, we should prepare our strategies to enable us to adequately participate in the process for Batswana to benefit,” he said.
Khama said the government is developing structures to ensure Batswana benefit from climate funding. He said structures such as personnel, modalities and how money should be disbursed through which entities.
Khama said Botswana is eligible for US$ 300 000 for the Green Climate Fund readiness programme. The government, he said, will be responsible for ensuring that there is capacity to access these funds.