Sehitwa residents who thronged the village Kgotla hoping that Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi would address their complaint against a fishing ban imposed at Lake Ngami went home disappointed because he passed the buck to Minister Tshekedi Khama.
Villagers complained that hopes of conserving the Lake Ngami fish through the ban have turned into a nightmare because cases of fishermen who drown in the lake cannot be reported to the police as the trade has now gone underground.
Lake Ngami Conservation Trust chairman Frisco Gabokakanngwe told the Minister that local fishermen people have now resorted to fishing at night when there are a fewer patrols and this is proving to be fatal. Most ignore bad weather patterns and other risks associated with fishing in the dark and end up drowning.
Gabokakanngwe claimed there were reports of death due to drowning which have gone unreported because witnesses feared questioning by police.
He suggested that people should be allowed to fish at least for the remaining four months before closing for the fish breeding season in December.
“We are all aware of the fishing ban, however what authorities fail to notice is that despite the ban, there are people who still do illegal fishing and benefit from it,” he said.
Gabokakanngwe added that “These people face many challenges as some do so under the influence of alcohol. But should fishing be allowed even temporarily, I believe some of these occurrences will be avoided.”
Masisi however would not address their complaints saying he hoped the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama would come up with a solution.
Residents pleaded with Masisi to convince government to reconsider the ban and promised to comply with whatever conditions are imposed.
After the meeting in Sehithwa, Masisi went to Maun where he made a stopover at a fish market which is frequented by foreign customers, mostly from Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Vice president expressed concern that Batswana fishermen appeared to be selling their valuable resource to foreigners for a song.
“I am surprised to see these heaps of fish which leave the country on daily basis while some people starve locally. This is the same fish which should be eaten at schools and hospitals. However there is nothing I can say at the moment because this is fair trade and there is nothing illegal about it. We will have to sit down and see how best this issue can be addressed.”