Botswana
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Hostile takeover

Chobe enclave conservation trust fight over hunting quota

Tension is building between residents of villages making the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT) and its Board.

A fortnight ago, residents convened a Special General Meeting (SGM) in Kachikau where an interim board was elected to take over from the current board chaired by Poniso Shamukuni.

At the centre of this chaotic situation threatening to split the communities right through the middle are the 2022 hunting quotas.

The resident’s legal advisor, Attorney Sinvula Isaac, told this publication in an interview that they’re in a crisis as a community.

“The issue of hunting quota is a serious one. It even reached parliament last year on December 06th where our Member of Parliament, Ronald Shamukuni, appealed to the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Conservation, Philda Kereng, to intervene,” said Isaac.

At the centre of the controversy is an investor trading under the name SV Safaris, who won the bid and sub-leased the hunting area for five years.

According to Isaac, SV Safaris was given an unfair advantage over other bidders.

“There are clearly signs that he was favoured by the board. He has been on site since 2020 and was marketing the place on social media even before winning the bid,” cried Isaac.

The attorney said while the winning bidder was P4.56 million, there was another investor who had bid for P5.7 million while the other bid for P4 million.

“Why would you take someone who’s giving you less money when CECT running costs stand at P1.4 million a year?” he asked rhetorically.
“But of paramount importance to this matter is that the board should have never gotten into any agreement with an investor without the knowledge of the community. Only the community can make a final decision at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) or SGM,” he said.

The newly-elected board proceeded to give the current board seven days to hand over power to them. On Monday, which was the seventh day, the interim board arrived at the CECT office where they expected to be handed the keys and introduced to staff, however, the current board was nowhere to be seen. That, however, did not stop the interim board from introducing themselves to staff and touring the CECT offices.

In an interview with The Voice current Board Chair, Shamukuni, said he had no time for people who disregard rules and regulations.

He said the elections held in Kachikau are unconstitutional.

“Elections should be conducted by the PAC and names submitted to the ministry. From the onset, they did not meet at a kgotla as per the requirement. These people are serving their own personal interests,” charged Shamukuni.

Explaining the situation, Shamukuni said there was nothing amiss with the current hunting quota and subsequent winning bid.

He said in 2020 SV Safaris won the bid to hunt and paid P5.7 million, but due to Covid-19, could not hunt.

“Hunting was opened in 2021 and that’s when he started building a collapsible camp. He was given an extra six months as per the contract to rehabilitate the place,” he said.

Shamukuni told The Voice that when a new hunting quota was released, SV Safaris showed their interest in bidding.

“He sent his bid, but delayed in closing camp because it wouldn’t have made sense to destroy camp, or to win the bid and rebuild from scratch,” Shamukuni told The Voice.

He further dismissed the argument of highest bidder insisting that they don’t only look at monetary value exclusively when they decide on bidders.

“We use a score card. We know situations where trusts have awarded tenders to highest bidders only for them to fail to pay. Bidders have to make a breakdown of how they arrived at their amounts,” he said.

“We are happy with the current partner, who has already given P100 000 to the community,” revealed Shamukuni.

The Chairperson further stated that the current five year-deal with SV Safaris escalates by 3 percent annually.