MAUN: The director of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Major General Otisitswe Tiroyadimo this week shielded verbal blows directed at his surbodinate, Ngamiland Regional Director of Wildlife Timothy Blackbeard.
At a full council meeting he addressed in Maun, Tiroyamodimo was told of how on numerous occasions, Blackbeard had applied corporal punishment by way of physically assaulting illegal fishermen at Lake Ngami and ordering his officers to smash up the fishermen’s’ boats, fishing nets and other property on site. Councillors took turns to shame Blackbeard who was also in attendance and labeled him as a bad and unfriendly “white man”, who never finds fault in taking the law into his own hands.
It is not the first time that Blackbeard, who is the former head of law enforcement unit at DWNP has been seen to be doing wrong. Ever since he took office in Maun this year he has been labeled as unreceptive and always quick to act without finding facts. Nevertheless on the other hand, his subordinates at the Maun office see him as a very approachable fellow who loves his job.
In defence, Tiroyamodimo said he was not aware of any incidents of assault either at the lake or any other water bodies as it has emerged that the cases were not reported at any police station. He stated that the treatment of people in a degrading manner has never been allowed in any disciplined force, which is why he finds chances of Blackbeard or any of his officers engaging in such as very slim. “I only learnt of the alleged assaults and damage to property through the media. I enquired through my officers as well as police in Shakawe and Sehitwa but they too were not aware of such reports. As for destruction to property, I can safely confirm that indeed some property has been confiscated at Sehitwa police awaiting court ruling on how they should be disposed.
But from what I have learnt, the said property was not seized from people per say, but rather from small islands surrounding the lake. I was told they were left there by fleeing people, perhaps because they saw our patrol teams coming or maybe because they knew what they were doing was illegal and therefore punishable,” he said.
Tiroyamodimo’s visit to the council was to brief them on the proposed new fishing regulations. He said the commercial fishing license is premeditated to cost P500 per year instead of the normal P200 which was charged once for a period of three years. Duplicate of a commercial fishing license will also be increased from P100 to P500 and so forth. Also permits will only be granted by the director. He noted that in the past, a director’s permit was P50 for every 100 fish intended to be caught but will now be increased to P100 for every 100 fish.
Councillor Ngatumbwe Kazambungo of Habu/Nokaneng demanded to know if the new regulations will exempt people who have been engaged in fish farming through the poverty eradication programme since the new charges are too restricting. He also requested that the director be clear on how the department is going to handle the loss at most rivers in the Ngamiland where it was discovered that large numbers of fish has died and left to rot as rivers and had been dry for some time. They said lately there had been bad blood between Lake Ngami Community Trust and the Lake Ngami Fishing Cooperative as the two organs always differ and are not supportive of each other. One of their main worry was that while other countries bordering Botswana continue to benefit from free fish farming, their own country now want to restrict communities from benefiting from the same by hiking prices. They also decried the fact that some victims of Human Wild Conflict are still not compensated even though the damage by wild animals continues.
In response, Tiroyamodimo said his office is very much aware of the backlog on compensations. He said last year alone their bill stood at P60 million even though the department was allocated a mere P4 million. He said they were allocated the same amount this financial year and that despite the long waiting list, their coffers are almost empty.
He stated the Lake Ngami Trust was formed with the pretext that they should manage the utilization of fish as the main resource in the area, while the cooperative was given the authority to market the resource. Tiroyamodimo said also that special groups such as the youth, those on poverty eradication, fishing syndicates and all those funded by government will not be affected by the changes. On the issue of continuous fishing at neighboring countries he said there are transfrontier conservation strategies that always guide them. “We have since completed the trans-boundary fish management plan. However Botswana is still lagging behind because we still haven’t changed some regulations as per agreement with countries bordering us”.