Parliament has once again taken the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama to task for his penchant to take unilateral decisions.
This time the minister was grilled for adopting a position at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th meeting without consulting parliament and relevant stakeholders.
Botswana made a historic break from the pro-ivory trade bloc with Tshekedi Khama’s statement against ivory trade at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Khama announced that Botswana would unreservedly and voluntarily relinquish Appendix II status for its own elephant populations to support an up-listing of all African elephants to the much tougher Appendix I protection.
Welcoming the news, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Executive Director Mary Rice said: “This is an historic move by Botswana, and a very brave one, to break ranks with many of its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and take a principled stand to put a future for elephants before commerce in ivory.
“The Government of Botswana is to be applauded for this courageous step at a time when elephants are being pushed closer to the edge by an ivory trade which serves only to turn this magnificent animal into a base commodity even as it spurs poaching and transnational crime.”
Botswana’s change in policy was one of the most significant outcomes from CoP17 and sets the stage for work to implement a complete international and domestic ban on trade in ivory.
The internationally acclaimed historic move has however sparked a row in Botswana with Parliament taking issue against Khama’s attempt to move elephants from CITES Appendix II to Appendix 1 where they would be classified under the most endangered species.
This classification would have banned international trade in specimens of the species, which conservationists view as a vital step towards ending the current ivory poaching crisis.
When pressed by the Member of Parliament for Chobe, Machana Shamukuni, who had requested information on whether any consultation was made with other stakeholders in Botswana, Khama responded by saying that the only possible alternative involved consulting the Botswana delegation that comprised Government officials, NGOs, traditional and community representatives that attended the CoP17 meeting.
Khama also said the reason he did not consult the Parliamentary committee was because of limited time. “There was no time to consult with the Parliamentary committee as we had to decide there with not much time,” said the minister.
He also said if no drastic measures are taken, “criminal elements” will easily find their way into our “safer environments and attempt to take away this iconic species that is important to our tourism.”
Whilst admitting that countries could exercise their sovereign rights, Khama said Angola was the only country supporting Botswana’s position as well as 29 African elephant range states.
Tshekedi Khama recently came under fire from the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises for his questionable and unilateral decisions in the running of the Botswana Tourism Board, a parastatal under his ministry.
At the time, both the then Chief Executive Officer Thabo Dithebe and Tshekedi Khama’s then Permanent Secretary, Elias Magosi revealed how the Minister usurped the powers of the BTO and took important decisions without consulting them.