Tshekedi Khama – minister for environment, natural resources conservation and tourism – is a man under siege. Lately his karma is taking a hard knock on account of his management of his ministry.
TK was forced to shoot from the hip on Monday during minister Unity Dow’s press conference at Mass Media Complex. Dr. Dow, international affairs and cooperation minister, had in not so many words made it clear that Khama was heavily conflicted as minister responsible for wildlife and a member of Tlhokomela Wildlife Trust at the same time.
Other members of this anti-hunting lobby group include Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders, whose report that was leaked to the international media suggesting that some 87 or so elephants were killed by poachers in northern Botswana has sparked an international uproar and blemished Botswana’s wildlife conservation record; former president Ian Khama and the Marketing Manager of Botswana Tourism Organisation, Jillian Blackbeard.
Dr. Dow cautioned: “Let us separate the private from the public” a direct reference to the conflicting positions of TK and Blackbeard and by extension former president, Ian Khama’s membership to an NGO whose primary motive is the agitation for continued imposition of wildlife hunting - whilst they hold or held public office. To make matters worse, Dr. Chase has been contracted by TK’s ministry to conduct the elephants study in northern Botswana.
But TK, who it was said, had ‘gate-crashed’ the press conference, wouldn’t be cowed into silence. He vigorously defended Dr. Chase’s report and dissociated himself from the Government rebuttal that was issued after the report was leaked. He said he only learnt of the rebuttal, which was full of errors, from social media and eventually implored Acting President, Slumber Tsogwane to instruct BDF and Police to do a survey to get a factual report about the alleged elephant massacre.
The jury is still out on this score, and Cabinet is expected to hear a full and comprehensive report next week Wednesday. Obviously, this TK’s outburst hit his Permanent Secretary, Thata Yaone Raphaka, below the belt. But, he couldn’t respond until he was asked how he was getting on with his minister and whether they were on talking terms to which he responded that indeed there are “issues” between them and they don’t get along well, but he would not be drawn to wash their dirty linen in public.
After the press conference Botswana Guardian asked TK if he had any personal or private interests in tourism that he could be protecting, to which he responded with an emphatic “No, I don’t” this, notwithstanding his membership to Tlhokomela Wildlife Trust.
Tshekedi Khama also defended calls by Dr. Chase, which were later reinforced by his wife, Thea, for the re-arming of the Anti Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Dr. Dow had earlier reiterated President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s viewpoint that, the arming of this Unit was illegal and tantamount to promoting “banditry”, as such an exercise flew in the face of their administration’s professed respect for the rule of law. But for Minister Tshekedi Khama, the first automatic weapons were supplied to this Unit as early as 1987. No one disputed his assertion, not the minister or the two PSs – Raphaka and Gaeimelwe Goitsemang.
When Botswana Guardian asked Tshekedi Khama, under which law were the automatic weapons supplied to the Anti Poaching Unit of DWNP, he said it was at the “President’s discretion.” President of Botswana in 1987 was the late Sir Ketumile Masire. Botswana Guardian could not ascertain the veracity of the minister’s assertion at the time of writing.
However, legal experts at the Attorney General’s Chambers told us that there is no Unit or Department of Government that is licensed to own weapons of war, except for the Botswana Defence Force.Not even the Police carry guns, except in emergency situations, said one lawyer.