While his party is always vocal on the loss of animal life and virtually silent on the loss of human life occasioned by those animals, the spokesperson of the Botswana Patriotic Front, Justice Motlhabani, says that this shouldn’t be understood to mean that the latter loss doesn’t concern it.He provides a multi-layered explanation for the latter. Firstly, everybody else – including other political parties – routinely express concern about people who are killed by wild animals (especially elephants) but practically stay mum when wild animals themselves are killed, especially by poachers.
In that regard, Motlhabani sees BPF as the “voice of the voiceless animals.” Secondly and with particular regard to the recent spate of elephant deaths, he says that this was an unprecedented crisis that required his party to raise its voice even louder.“Even the government itself admitted that this was a crisis and that is why we had to issue a lot of press statements about the deaths,” Motlhabani says.Thirdly and the latter notwithstanding, the BPF spokesperson says that his party has also expressed condolences to the bereaved whose family members were killed by wild animals. “Last year, we also released an election manifesto that is people-centred,” he adds.
Motlhabani is able to quote the exact number of elephants that died mysteriously and the rhinos that were killed by poachers this year. The latter prompts what is a fair question by all standards of fairness: do you know how many people were killed by elephants this year and how many crop fields those elephants destroyed during the previous harvesting season? He admits he doesn’t have the answers but is quick to point out that “it is not more than 10”, which “is not such a huge number.” He then refers to a statement he released earlier this year in which he stated that understanding animal behaviour would help mitigate human-animal conflict.
“Elephants don’t kill safari camp workers in the Okavango Delta even though they interact with them,” the BPF spokesperson says. “That is because these workers understand elephant behaviour. This is an issue of co-existence.”The engagement with Motlhabani was backgrounded against the most recent episode of animal-human conflict that resulted in the loss of human life. BPF, which always reacts swiftly to the death of an elephant or rhino, didn’t react.
As a matter of fact, Motlhabani was not even aware of these deaths. This was not the first time this has happened and this pattern has motivated some people to take the view that the party is more concerned about the loss of animal than of human life.