The adage that ‘saving the best for the last’ could best describe the ever quiet MP for Chobe, Machana Shamukuni after he ambushed the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama on Thursday with an urgent motion. Shamukuni, who hardly contributes in the National Assembly, invoked parliamentary Standing Order 51.1 and asked Parliament to request government to suspend with immediate effect the enforcement of the Fish Protection Regulations of 2016. His reasons for bringing the motion was that Minister Khama did not consult the affected communities before putting the regulations into effect. He said that the 2016 regulations were outrageous as the commercial fishing licence fee was increased from P200 to P500 with validity reduced from three years to 10 months. Another concern for Shamukuni was the reduction of the mounted gill net length from 150 metres as per the 2008 fishing regulations to only 25 metres in the 2016 regulations. “This will have the effect of reducing catch size and hence render most fishing businesses barely viable and will throw many into poverty and worse still, back to government safety nets,” reasoning the Chobe MP.
Khama was seemingly caught unaware as he asked the Speaker to cast aside the motion on grounds that he had already suspended the regulations. His appeal hit a snag. Khama, who was heckled when he tried to explain the suspension of the 2016 fishing regulations, stormed out of parliament. “Owaii key ole o ngadile tona jaanong go dirwa jang,” said MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi but the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu came to his rescue, saying he is taking notes for him. Shamukuni, who seemed to be in his element, concurred with Mmolotsi that Khama stormed out of Parliament out of anger. “Ee le nna ke mmone o ngadile,” said Shamukuni, sending the house into laughter and said it was an insult to him for Minister Khama to say that he had consulted him before he tabled the motion knowing that he was not telling the truth. There is no scientific evidence to justify the enforcement of these grossly unreasonable regulations, hit out Shamukuni. He read a short message sent to him by Minister Tshekedi which he said that he won’t succeed in his urgent motion. He accused the younger brother to President Ian Khama of misleading the Parliament.
Supporting the motion the MP for Okavango Bagalatia Aarone accused Minister Khama of failing to consult MPs in the affected constituencies. “We will not allow the minister to bulldoze our communities. He should stop listening to few white fellows who have taken over the Okavango Delta,” hit out Aarone. The MP for Nata/Gweta Paulson Majaga hailed Shamukuni as the true representative of his people. He said tourism in Botswana has become the privilege of the rich while the local communities wallow in poverty. Responding to the debate, Khama apologised if the affected communities felt hard done by the regulations and insisted that they have withdrawn the regulations in their entirety. In an interview Khama said that he was surprised by Shamukani when he brought the motion and even Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi tried to engage him on the issue. “He is lacking discipline and I wonder what he was trying to achieve because I explained the whole issue to him,” said the disappointed Khama.
According to Khama, Shamukuni was more interested on the reduction of the mounted gill net length which has been reduced from 150 metres to 25 metres.
“The Chobe River is 150 metres width and 50 metres deep and our concern is that you can’t have a net that cross the whole river,” he said. On the other hand, Shamukuni insisted that he had to bring the urgent motion as it was clear the ministry was not ready to suspend the regulations. “How were we supposed to believe them when there was no press release to the effect that they have suspended the regulations,” he said. He maintained that Tshekedi didn’t consult him. “He is the one who wanted to embarrass me by trying to stop me from bringing the urgent motion to Parliament.” Shamukuni said the reason he brought the urgent motion was because the regulations were now in effect. Parliament supported the motion that Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism should suspend the 2016 fishing regulations which came into effect on the 1st of April 2016.