The good news for the residents of Kazungula, Lesoma and Pandamatenga is that the sale of a variety of game netted them a neat P7 million. The bad news for those who bought these animals is that with COVID-19 lousing up commerce, hunting has been suspended and so they can’t claim their purchases from the Chobe bush.
The P7 million windfall is a present from President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who lifted a hunting ban that was imposed by his predecessor, Ian Khama. The arrangement in question is one that was introduced by another Botswana president, Sir Ketumile Masire, who adjudged that communities are likelier to protect wildlife if they benefit from it. For this year, the three Chobe villages were given a quota of 10 elephants, 10 zebra, 10 warthogs, 5 buffalo, 2 eland, 2 kudu, 2 leopard, 5 baboons and 20 impala. All were auctioned off on March 17 this year at the Chobe District Council chamber in Kasane through a joint body (KALEPA Trust) whose name comes that of the three villages. The Trust contracted the services of professional auctioneers from Gaborone, Kgale Auctioneers, to conduct the sale.
Pandamatenga’s Headman of Records, Kgosi David Mafikizolo, says that information about the auction, which will include earnings, has yet to be officially communicated to the residents. Earnings from these kind of sales are typically used for village development projects and Mafikizolo says that only when they are given feedback about the sale, would residents be invited to suggest what the money should be spent on. While this commercial venture is well-intentioned and has produced good results, it has also been marred by embezzlement in some cases. In response to the question of what steps have been taken to ensure that there is no embezzlement, Mafikizolo says that while trusts operated independently and without oversight in the past, they are now over overseen by the Office of the District Commissioner.
“The Office is involved every step of the way to ensure that the money is used properly and for the full benefit of the community,” he adds.
For now Chobe has not been affected by a strange development that has gripped the neighbouring district of Ngamiland where close to 400 elephants have died mysteriously. For now, those deaths are confined to the Okavango Panhandle.