- My PS is useless and old school- Khama says
- Says PS shouldn’t have rebutted elephants story
- Khama is desparate – PS
- I stand by my rebuttal- PS
Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama in an interview with this publication described his Permanent Secretary Thato Raphaka as “primitive” and “out of touch” with what is going on in the ministry.
Speaking to this publication on Saturday at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport where he had gone to welcome President Mokgweetsi Masisi back in the country from his trip to China and the Seychelles, Khama expressed his anger and disappointment at Raphaka for issuing a public statement dismissing reports by Elephants Without Borders (EWB)’s Director Mike Chase that 87 elephants had recently been killed.
Following the unauthorised release of the controversial report by Chase, the Permanent Secretary issued a public statement describing the Elephant Without Borders (EWB) reports as ‘‘unsubstantiated, sensational, false and misleading’’. Raphaka revealed that contrary to Chase’s much publicized report, EWB had been contracted by the Government of Botswana to conduct a survey which started from 5th July up to 1st August 2018 and expected to conclude end of September. Prior to concluding it’s studies EWB reported that it had discovered 53 elephant carcasses whose death arose from incidents that had already been officially and cumulatively reported to the Government in July and August of this year.
‘‘Of the aforementioned 53 reported, a verification mission between July and August established that the majority were not poached but rather died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and wildlife conflicts’’, Raphaka noted in his dismissal of claims made by Chase that 87 elephants had been found indiscriminately killed by poachers within a few weeks.
Khama lambasted his Permanent Secretary for refuting claims that the rampant poaching is attributable to the disarmament of the wildlife rangers. ‘‘He is clueless about poaching and doesn’t understand the impact that came with disarming wildlife officers’’, Khama fumed and revealed that he has asked Vice President Slumber Tsogwane to allow him to hold a press conference and condemn his Permanent Secretary, a non-political government position.
When addressing the issue of disarming wildlife officers, Raphaka appears to have invoked the ire of Khama when he informed the public that, ‘‘the Government of Botswana wishes to state that it is unfortunate that some media reports attribute the rise in elephant poaching primarily to the withdrawal of weapons from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit. The fact of the matter is that the withdrawal of such weapons from DWNP, did not in any way affect the effectiveness and operations of the anti-poaching units’’. The PS further pointed out that the withdrawal of weapons from DWNP was in line with the existing legislation which does not allow the DWNP to own or use such weapons.
Khama took issue with Raphaka’s statement that some individuals or groups are attempting to give a false impression that they love Botswana wildlife more than citizens of Botswana. ‘‘Mike (Chase) loves this country a lot and has worked tirelessly for its wildlife conservation. He is a Motswana jaanong they see his skin colour and think ke lekgoa (white foreigner)’’, Khama exclaimed. He said Raphaka issued the rebuttal without his input and approval. ‘‘He knew I was out of town as I was travelling from Maun and he rushed to issue out the rebuttal without consulting me’’, the tourism minister claimed.
Raphaka joined Khama’s ministry from the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services in April this year following President Masisi’s reshuffle of Cabinet Ministers and Permanent Secretaries after assuming the presidency from Ian Khama. Raphaka and Tshekedi Khama have been working together for just four months but they have already fallen out as Raphaka is said to be no pushover and makes independent decisions, some of which tend to rub Khama the wrong way.
Responding to Khama’s criticism over his decision to issue a public statement condemning Elephants Without Borders, Raphaka said he was not in the habit of hanging his Ministry’s dirty linen in public. He however told the media at a press conference on Monday that he together with his ministry officials stand by the rebuttal that was issued.
Reached for comment on Monday evening, Raphaka said it was unfortunate that Minister Khama finds nothing wrong with attacking him in public. ‘’I am confident of my competence in this job and I am very certain the people who appointed me are equally confident of my capabilities’’, he said. Raphaka said he might be new at Khama’s ministry but he has vast experience in public service. He said, ‘’the issue we are currently grappling with borders on land management and that is the subject I went to the university for and have dealt with at the ministry of lands so I am not going to be worried by people who perhaps have something to hide or are just desperate’’. The PS said he still stands by the rebuttal that offended Khama because it was put together by various professionals from different government departments after satisfying themselves with the information that was availed to them.