- Masire’s son and nephew say past 10 years were awful
- The two praise new administration as promising
- Former minister Charles Tibone among the latest entrants
The past 10 years were so awful that many local businesses went to the wall, according to the son of former president, the late Sir Ketumile Masire, Moabi and his cousin Fino.
The two are leading natives in the game farming business.
The revelation suggests that the rapacious grip that ex-president Ian Khama and his associates, mainly family and white people, had on the tourism industry squeezed out the family of Khama’s own father’s trusted friend and political partner alongside the rest of Batswana.
The Masires’ concerns about the game farming industry under Khama echo their father Masire’s long standing perturbations about the Khama administration’s tourism policies that the late elder statesman once described as agonizing.
In an interview with this publication this week, Moabi, who has inherited his father’s game farm, started by applauding the new administration. “Almost all businesses had died and those that are running are on account of passion,” he said. “The new administration has brought new hope and many businesses are slowly but surely taking off. The past 10 years have been awful. No business could survive those conditions and the hostile legislation. It is good that we are seeing a review and consultations in this industry.”
Moabi says recently he has so far sold 200 zebras to private businesses and persons. In 2016, his father lost 90 species due to drought, a disaster which the elder statesman blamed on the government’s slow response to his call for help.
His nephew Fino describes the industry as having been on the “deathbed for the past 10 years”. He must know what he is talking about because he happens to be a longtime Chairperson of the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association. “We have started engagements with the government,” he says. “The previous administration was point blank with us that it is an elitist industry.”
Although the industry is dominated by white farmers, a few serious Batswana have held on with former minister Charles Tibone among the latest entrants around Sekoma. The other players are the controversial Sebina brothers, Tshepo and Kegone, in the western Sandvelds.
The law allows any person granted permission to be entitled to farm, ranch, hunt or capture animals on his land for commercial purposes. However, Batswana have not embraced the business due to its prohibitive challenges and slow returns that were made worse by the Khama administration that seemed crafted to keep Batswana out.
Most Batswana’s ranches measure between less than ten thousand hectares compared to foreigners mostly compacted in the Tuli Block area with ranches measuring over 50 000 hectares.
The Game Farm business concept is critical to the future of the hunting industry because game farmers supply the animals that populate the nation’s preserves. In some cases, game farm entrepreneurs also engage in the process and sale of game meat or the delivery of bred game stock to individuals and commercial growers.
A year ago in Malatswai after former president Ian Khama’s departure, the former Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama whose brother ‘s tenure has come under criticism by most tourism business locals said plans were underway to consult Batswana on game farming and/or ranching, which would see locals rearing wild animals on ranches.
The move, he said, would help spur and spread tourism to all parts of the country without necessarily limiting it to wild animal concentration areas of Chobe and Ghanzi. Tshekedi further challenged the community of Malatswai to decide whether, upon completion of fencing their community farm, they would help rear cattle or wildlife. Tshekedi’s views were however dismissed by industry captains who accused him of advocating for things he did not do in the past years when he was at the helm of the Ministry.