Monday, March 1, 2021

Fishes safe in Botswana, unsafe a few centimeters away in Namibia

A member of Ntlo ya Dikgosi has pointed out the absurdity of effort by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to “effectively conserve the fish and wildlife of Botswana in consultation with local, regional and international stakeholders for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The absurdity is that two different laws apply to the same stretch of the Chobe River which forms a boundary between Botswana and Namibia. The result is a serio-comical situation in which breeding-season laws are applied in one country and not the other for the very same resource. In the session that ended this past Friday, Kgosi Moffat Sinvula asked the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism why Namibians don’t observe the fish breeding season in the Chobe River while Batswana are compelled to.

The response was that while the river forms the boundary between the two countries, “the Nambians fish on the Namibian side and are therefore, not governed by the laws of Botswana.” In practical terms, this means that while Batswana fishermen are prohibited from catching fish during the breeding season, those same fishes (which know absolutely nothing about international borders) become game when they swim a few centimeters away into Namibian waters.

Apparently, discussions on transboundary fisheries issues between the governments of Botswana and Namibia are ongoing. “The Technical Team comprising of representatives from the two governments met in October 2014 and commenced work on harmonisation of their fishery legislation to pave way for the observation of the fish breeding season on both sides,” said the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso on behalf of her colleague at Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama. This harmonisation is taking much longer than would be expected because the status quo goes back decades when Namibia was a South African colony.

Conceivably, it would have been difficult to establish common ground on this issue with South Africa’s apartheid government but the independent republic of Namibia has been in existence for 25 years this year. Both Botswana and Namibia are members of the Southern African Development Community, a regional economic community whose main aim ÔÇô at least on paper, is to integrate the systems, processes and economies of member states.

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