In an interesting turn of events, Councillors at the North West District Council (NWDC) have asked the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conversation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama to sell the air craft that was bought by his Ministry last year and use the money to compensate farmers whose property has been damaged by wildlife. Councillors said the Ministry has owed farmers more than P6 million for the past four years. Councillors were not amused by the minister’s response when he told them that his ministry continued to get the lowest budget every year despite being responsible for critical tasks. Leading the onslaught, the outspoken councillor for Thito/Bombadi Mmoedi Modiegi told Tshekedi to sell the aircraft that was purchased by the ministry as it has cost a lot of money that could have been used for other things in the ministry. “Our people are suffering here but your ministry is spending billions to buy some expensive aircraft. It fails to pay farmers their compensation money,” he charged.
Modiegi said since there are unresolved issues about the Maun Educational Park, the minister should not spend the P48m earmarked for the project and instead use part of it to compensate farmers. Another councillor Kaukapita Kaukapita for Sedie ward urged the minister to prioritise his ministry budget according to people’s needs. He said Ngamiland as a tourism region depends on his ministry but the minister has ignored the plight people in area and instead spends heavily elsewhere. He said Ngamiland has high cases of human wildlife conflict with the wildlife damaging farmers’ crops while others eat farmers’ cattle. The ministry, he regretted has turned a deaf ear to farmers plight. Ngamiland should be given the priority the when it comes to budgeting, he decried. Mbahahauka Kambimba urged the minister to prioritize people than wildlife, saying the ministry was spending a lot of money on anti-poaching activities while failing to compensate farmers whose crops have been destroyed by elephants. A specially nominated councillor Abel Molelo asked the minister to consider culling the elephants as they have increased drastically. He said there are numbers of elephants that are roaming the streets and are causing a lot of damage to people’s properties.
In response, Minister Tshekedi Khama defended the purchase of the aircraft, saying it has bought for anti-poaching activities. He said the aircraft can be used by all ministries when they need it, giving an example that some ministers used it when they were attending to the BCL issue. “The aircraft is not only used by my ministry. It is a government property,” he insisted. He also complained that his Ministry is one of those which get the lowest budget every year despite being responsible for critical tasks. Khama said it has been quite evident that given the limited resources, compensation for property damaged by wildlife is not sustainable in the long run. He shared a budget allocation for compensation since 2014 which showed that in 2014/2015, P9 million was allocated for 5647 cases but the money needed for compensation was P16 million; In 2015/2016, P8.8 million was allocated for 5500 cases while P16 million was needed again; and in 2016/2017 financial year P4.4 million was allocated for 5500 cases though they needed P14 million to compensate people.