Of China, Elephants and Darwin

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When President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his entourage returned from the Africa – China summit last week instead of being able to talk about the deals we assume he had negotiated he came back to a storm of controversy over elephants.
Two days before he returned, the world’s media exploded with a scare story that poachers had killed 87 elephants in Ngamiland and Botswana’s herds of over 150 000 elephants were now in danger. World news broadcasters such as BBC and CNN published almost identical stories and same pictures purporting to show a handful of some of the elephants that the NGO Elephants Without Borders claimed were the tip of the iceberg; and Botswana was facing a major poaching crisis which threatened the continent’s biggest concentration of elephants.
The stories also claimed that the escalation in killing of elephants coincided with Masisi’s decision to disarm anti-poaching patrols.
At his Press Conference at the Airport, President Masisi was forced to defend Botswana and deny that our elephants are in danger. A few days later, however, it also became clear that the whole story was “fake news” designed to embarrass President Masisi and tarnish Botswana’s conservation record when it comes to protecting the last major sanctuary for the African Elephant. When reporters from local newspapers were invited to tour the area where the so called “slaughter” took place, less than a dozen elephant carcasses were found, most of which still had their tusks intact.
One does not have to look very far to find the source of the “fake news” – the Khama family. The ban on hunting elephants was introduced by former President Ian Khama who sees himself as a global animal conservationist, controlling the Khama Rhino Sanctuary as if it was his own private property. His brother Tshekedi as the Minister responsible for Tourism is also a mouth piece for the conversation movements and the family has interests in the tourism industry.
The family also has a motive for planting the “fake news” story; to embarrass President Masisi as they continue their conspiracy to undermine his presidency in the run up to the 2019 elections.
Recently, so called party elders are reported to have advised Masisi to play it cool and avoid a confrontation with Khama lest it split the party. This is bad advice. Botswana has always suffered from a predilection for gradual change and avoiding confrontation. This gradualist approach was criticized in Vision 2016 which noted that small incremental steps may have served the country well in the past, but the time has come for bold steps to take the country into the 21st century.
This is one of those times. While the gradualist Darwinian approach to evolution may be fundamentally sound, history has shown us that change, real change, does not come gradually, and requires forceful intervention.
Our Constitution, which puts term limits for Presidents and elections every five years, provides such opportunities for radical change. President Masisi should seize the opportunity and clean house before the 2019 elections so that Batswana can vote on real change instead of fighting the battles of the past.
called for bold steps to bring about radical change in the country