Tuesday, July 14, 2020

‘New regime poaching elephants, calling it hunting’ – Khama

An online United States publication has provided former president, Ian Khama, with an opportunity to get back at President Mokgweetsi Masisi with a poaching accusation.

There has been a mysterious spike in rhino poaching in the Okavango Delta and Masisi – alongside some other people – has insinuated that Khama might know something about this development. General Khama would later tell Sunday Standard that the charge was ridiculous and now through a left-wing British publication called The Canary, gets to take a potshot at the president.  

“This new policy will also demotivate those who are engaged in anti-poaching who are being told to save elephants from poachers while the new regime is poaching the same elephants but calling it hunting,” Khama is quoted as saying.

The policy he is referring to is one that overturns a hunting ban that he imposed in 2015, a year after his re-election.

“This policy is driven by those who represent an industry that capitalizes on ecological destruction. The negative effects are already being felt in the tourism industry, which will threaten our revenues and employment that hunting proponents pretend they want to improve. No scientific work was done on numbers to hunt or places to do so,” Khama told The Canary.

What he left out of that statement is that the policy has the support of a majority of people who live in the affected areas who have come off worst in the human-wildlife conflict that is pervasive in the northern part of the country. Not only have elephants destroyed crop fields, they have also killed people and as Masisi told a Hollywood audience last year, their large numbers have exceeded the land’s carrying capacity. As problematic about Khama’s statement is revenues and employment being threatened because of systemic problems around both aspects. It has been stated and proven that the tourism industry in the elephant areas doesn’t meaningfully benefit local communities because the employment is precarious, wages very low and working conditions deplorable. As regards revenues, there is empirical evidence that Botswana loses more than 50 percent of such revenues which are repatriated abroad – mostly to South Africa, Britain and the United States.

Khama’s description of Masisi’s administration as a “regime” is something to be expected but is interesting in another dimension. Going back six years, former Botswana presidents have used that word to refer to the administrations of their successors. Speaking to an American TV channel called CNBC in 2014, Festus Mogae described Khama’s administration as an autocratic “regime.” Khama, who has fallen out with Masisi in a spectacularly public way, is in the habit of referring to the current administration as an autocratic regime. Interestingly, there is a semantic context in which Khama’s choice of words confirms that his administration was a regime. To the extent, “new” means different from the former or old, “new regime” basically says that there is a regime that came before Masisi’s – Khama’s.


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Sunday Standard July 12 – 18

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 12 - 18, 2020.