Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The failures of the Environmental ministry should not be glossed over

It is important to put into perspective the importance of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.

In today’s global geo-politics, this is a very crucial ministry that could easily be compared to those ministries that house foreign relations, interior matters, defence and security.

Unfortunately, it would seem like the political matters of this country have their priorities wrong when it comes to this ministry.

In a clandestinely self serving way, the ministry seems to place wildlife and tourism ahead of the environment.

Issues pertaining to the environment are at best glossed over while those of tourism and wildlife receive inordinate attention and resources.

This is unfortunate to say the least.

This was not always the case.

Previously all the components that make up the ministry were taken with comparable seriousness.

Even for outsiders, it was clear just what vision the policymakers were trying to achieve. But not anymore.

We had serious reservations when an announcement was made that Khama had been appointed to replace Kitso Mokaila as Minister responsible for tourism and environment.

Our reservation had nothing to do with performance, which increasingly is now becoming an issue, but with governance.

We argued that as younger brother to the President, an impression was being created that Tshekedi Khama was being appointed to take care of the Khama family interests in the tourism sector, of which the family has a sizeable stake.

We also argued that Mokaila had created a steady and admirable vision and track record which he could have been allowed to see through, especially in as far as transformation of the sector is concerned.

Events at the Botswana Tourism Board have largely vindicated our apprehensions.

We have seen some people being moved from Wilderness Safaris, a multinational tourism outfit in which the Khamas have a stake to key and strategic management positions at the parastatal, thereby rendering the Chief Executive Officer a literal scarecrow.

While Minister Khama might be commended for doing a sterling job in as far as taking care of the family interests in the ministry, the public should be concerned about his glaring failures in taking care of the environment.

We have watched for some time now, how the country has been fast turning into a  large garbage dumping site.

So dirty is the whole country that it has all become an eyesore.

The matter has become so chronic that it can no longer be left to local government authorities.

The whole issue deserves coordination at the top or else it risks undoing and eroding all the gains so far made in attracting tourists to this country.

If you take the A1 highway for example, which is by far the biggest and busiest road preferred by tourists to and from the north, the road is messy with litter all over at the places designated as resting places where travelers especially tourists normally take rests to enjoy a meal.

It may well be news to the minister because he mostly flies rather than drive his way around the county.

More worrying is the fact that the filth is no longer confined to just the urban and peri-urban areas. It now extends quite comprehensively to the countryside as well.

There is clearly an effort on the part of the people to throw trash at designated areas including in the rubbish bins provided by the roadside.

But clearly on account of poor leadership, such trash bins are never emptied, certainly not on time invariably leading to them being full and spilling all over the place.

This defeats the purpose for which those bins were provided.

The resultant untidy surroundings thus create a dangerous public image for the country that tourists take with them when they go back to their country.

We call on the minister to look at his portfolio in its entirety beyond just his family interest components of it.

When he does that he will most definitely come to a conclusion that the ministry encompasses way beyond just wildlife and tourism ÔÇô the family’s pastime, as it also includes looking after the state of the environment, including cleanliness as well policing against excessive harvesting of river sand which is now back to the debilitating pre-Mokaila levels.

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Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.