Please allow me an opportunity to voice my concern regarding the latest developments at government enclave.
Of late, the government of Botswana has been passing some of the most ridiculous laws ever since the inception of democracy and independence; two words that have proved to be both fluid in definition depending on who is in power. Both the words still have some confusion and some blur around them.
Mmegi ran an amazing story about how the government intends to stop people from harvesting Phane (more popularly known as the Mophane worm, courtesy of the Caucasians).
Usually when governments pass laws like this, it is to the detriment of the poor masses and the gains of the few rich.
The Bill as it says, will stop free harvesting of forest resources, something Batswana have been doing for decades if not centuries for survival. With the arrival of the Caucasians and middle easterners and the rise of money economies, it only made sense for them to use their resources both for survival and monetary gains although at first it was for whiskey.
Something that saw near extinction of African elephants and rhinos because of Ivory. Now the very same people who gained the most from the massacre are now making a killing in monetary gains under the pretence of protecting them.
Now the people of Botswana do not own wild animals (wild resources). They are in national parks, if not they are in private game farms (foreigner owned mostly). When one wants to kill an animal, they have to ask for permission from someone who doesn’t need it dead. Of course, the person will decline.
Now they are saying that they are going to make people ask for a permit to harvest Phane, wild berries and everything else that is in the forest. Here we are talking about wild fruits like seretologa, mmupudu, mmilo, mogwana, you name them.
Has it occurred to these people that the very people who harvest these things are the ones at the lowest end of the food chain, people who can’t afford to buy meat every day, people who don’t have money to buy exotic fruits like apples and litchis and kiwis. People who can’t afford to buy cement use mud and sand to build, they use grass for thatching/roofing. Now you ask these people to buy the very things that God provided for them for free? There is no way these poor people are going to buy these resources.
Of late all the laws that the government passes are for making money.
Are the government coffers not enough to sustain the high and luxurious expenditure the government has been making? First people suddenly had to pay for school fees. Then some farmers got the shock of their life when their payments were hiked with no clear reason, then the road traffic act was amended to milk the drivers of their money. Beer makers and drinkers alike were not given the exception. Now they want to make people pay for what they could otherwise get for free
The government is hiding behind protection of the environment and management of the forest resources, they talk about forest reserves. What forests? We only have savanna and bush lands, a bit of swamps and a vast desert. This is all just a ploy to enrich a few people.
This law will allow the rich to have exclusive rights to harvest Phane and everything else in the forest, forcing the poor to go and buy Phane in Choppies when they could otherwise have it for free from the forest. Boers buy Phane from the locals. The rich want exclusive market share to supply them with it and make a killing.
You want to protect the forests? Start by protecting the people. Let the Bill say only disadvantaged black Batswana can harvest for free and no one else. There are bad implications and repercussions of this Bill. Uganda implemented a similar law, the locals were closed out, the big foreign companies came in, now the Ugandans have to buy fish from them, the Nile perch, a fish only found in the lake known to the masses as lake Victoria (also courtesy of the Caucasians) is almost extinct. Local fishermen are dying in the waters due to invisible territories in the lake. Can you imagine life without Phane? Worse still, can you imagine having to fight for Phane? Can you imagine being called a poacher for harvesting Phane?
Besides socio economic problems, there are also environmental implications. The government is messing with the ecosystem. There is a reason why Phane is harvested in large quantities, it maintains the balance. If people do not harvest it, it is going to destroy the trees; all the Mophane tree leaves will be finished before the end of the year. The trees will slowly wither and die away. There will be nothing to sustain future Phane generations and eventually Phane will be extinct.
The government has taken our diamonds and is giving them to the rest of the world when more than 90 percent of Batswana wouldn’t know a diamond if they saw one.
Apparently there is gold, copper and nickel in this country. Now they are coming for uranium.
In all honesty, Batswana have never really had any great need for these things as they don’t use them in their day to day life. So it is alright for them to be owned by the government. But Phane, Grass, Mud, Wild fruits are the things that people use in their daily life and the government taking that from them is unthinkable. If you take Phane away, re ya go shaba ka eng, what are we to eat?