Category Archives: Business

Botswana Hits Back at Critics on Anti-Poaching Policy

Botswana’s president says criticism of his government’s anti-poaching policy is “nothing but hysteria,” following reports that poachers are killing more elephants in a country with Africa’s biggest elephant population.

The remark by President MokgweetsiMasisi came after some conservationists expressed concern that Botswana’s wildlife department had been stripped of weapons required for the sometimes dangerous work of thwarting armed poachers.

“This stretch of imagination of linking the poaching of any species with an alleged disarmament of the department of wildlife is nothing but hysteria,” Masisi said Saturday after returning home from an official trip to China.

Elephants Without Borders, a conservation group, said this month that results from an ongoing elephant census in Botswana indicate poaching has surged. The spike coincided with the disarming of anti-poaching units, the group said.

The southern African country has long been a refuge for elephants on a continent where tens of thousands have been killed over the years for their ivory. A study a few years ago said Botswana had 130,000 elephants.

Botswana’s military has killed some suspected poachers who illegally crossed the border, a crackdown seen as necessary by some conservationists but criticized by neighboring countries.

The government of Masisi, who took office this year, said weapons were withdrawn from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in line with legislation that bars the department from having them.

An official previously specified that the weapons in question are military issue, indicating that the department does retain some firearms. And all security agencies have been involved in anti-poaching operations since the 1980s, according to the government.

Accustomed to international praise for conservation efforts, Botswana has come under scrutiny from groups such as PETA that suggest an outcry over the weapons issue could hurt wildlife tourism there.

“As Botswana’s government transitions to a new anti-poaching policy, it remains to be seen whether the spike in poaching is an isolated incident or reflects a troubling new trend,” said another group, WildAid.

Pushing back at critics, Masisi said the fact that elephants have flourished in Botswana is a tribute to the country’s conservation approach.

“Most are found here,” he said. “It’s not accidental. It is we who caused them to be.”

Source: Voice of America


PRETORIA– South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has given two senior officials of the National Prosecuting Authority until next Friday to explain why they should not be suspended pending inquiries.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed two senior NPA officials of his intention to institute inquiries into their fitness to hold office.

He has given Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and Special Director of Public Prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi until next Friday to explain why they should not be suspended pending these inquiries.

The two were struck off the roll in 2016 following several decisions they have made. These included dropping charges against suspended Police Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli, the spy tapes matter relating to the scrapping of corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma and the case of suspended KwaZulu-Natal Province head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, Johan Booysen, in the alleged Cato Manor death squad matter.

Mrwebi and Jiba were reinstated to the roll of advocates in July after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld their appeal against a 2016 ruling by the Pretoria High Court.

The president’s decision to serve suspension notices on the two comes as the Constitutional Court is expected to rule on whether the appointment of Shawn Abrahams as NPA head was valid.



PRETORIA– Commercial banks in South African which have been implicated in the rigging of foreign exchange dealings of the Rand against the US dollar say the Competition Commission has failed to provide enough facts regarding the alleged collusive transactions.

The 23 banks were giving testimony before the Competition Tribunal during the second day of the Competition Tribunal hearings Tuesday.

Most of the banks which gave testimony on Tuesday want the tribunal to dismiss the cases against them because of lack of evidence. They again argued jurisdiction, prescription and that there is no proof that they participated in collusive transactions.

They have also argued that the matter has been prescribed because it happened three years ago. The alleged collusive transactions took place from 2007 to 2013.

The banks are said to have made massive profits by manipulating the Rand-US dollar rate and the competition commission says consumers have suffered the consequences of this.

The competition commission has refuted claims that it took too long to investigate this case, saying it was only made aware of it by Absa Bank three years after the collusive transactions took place.

Its investigation found that the banks had a general agreement to collude on prices for bids in relation to currency trading.


As High Seas Threaten Liberian Slum, Residents Await Promised Homes

On a windy day in Liberia’s waterfront slum of West Point, Gbeneweieh Quoh surveys what remains of her home, fearful that it may crumble into the ocean.

The waves tore away three bedrooms in the past year, leaving the fragile structure even more vulnerable to rising tides and storms.

Yet Quoh’s family cannot afford to move anywhere else, so they are just staying put, she said. “What can we do? Nobody will help.”

Theirs is one of thousands of homes that risk sliding into the sea in Monrovia’s densely populated slum community, according to the Liberian government.

“Almost the entire township is threatened by the ocean…it is mainly seated on a sand dune,” said Duannah Siryon, managing director of Liberia’s National Housing Authority.

Coastal erosion threatens thousands of kilometers of coast from Mauritania to Gabon in West Africa, home to about 105 million people. These coastal areas generate 56 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, says the World Bank.

In Liberia’s West Point alone, rising sea levels and erosion have destroyed about 800 homes and displaced more than 6,500 people since 2013, according to the Disaster Victims Association, a group of community leaders.

Displaced families have been forced to stay with relatives, find refuge in churches or sleep rough in open-air markets, the association says – with many struggling to feed themselves.

“We (Grant and his brother) eat one-and-a-half cups of rice a day, two on Sunday,” said Daniel Grant, the group’s 71-year-old chairman whose five properties have been swallowed up by the ocean over the past five years.

“We used to have six to seven cups when I had income coming in from rent,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a group meeting in a dark office in Monrovia, the capital.

Earlier this month Liberia’s newly sworn-in President George Weah committed to building 2,000 modern homes to replace fragile structures in West Point as well as a sea wall to keep out the encroaching ocean.

But slum residents worry it is too little, too late.

“A poor man is always a patient person. We are still begging them (the government),” Grant said.

Worsening Conditions

The country is still recovering from two brutal civil wars, which spanned 14 years before ending in 2003, and an Ebola outbreak which killed some 4,800 people between 2014 and 2016.

Now those displaced from their homes by erosion face further hardship, poor living conditions and fast-spreading diseases like tuberculosis, West Point residents say.

“Even animals have somewhere to sleep, but we are out in the cold,” said S. Panteswen, a middle-aged man at the meeting whose two houses in West Point were also destroyed by high tides.

Like many others he has spent a lifetime scrimping and saving while running small businesses on the side, slowly expanding his property by adding on small rooms built with thin concrete or other salvaged material.

Marie Samulkai, 48, a housing volunteer from West Point, built a large home for her family of 11 in the neighborhood in 2008, making a living by selling groceries and alcohol from nearby shacks.

“In 2014 it (the house and shacks) all went (swept away by the sea at night). Now I’m homeless,” she said.

With her main source of income gone, she said her children “have lost respect for me” now that she can no longer provide for them.

Grant said there is a “desperate need” to educate the coastal community on the danger of erosion and build more solid homes.

Sometimes residents make building blocks from sand or try to reclaim land filled with garbage – which can easily be washed away, he said.

“People take the sand and make blocks. They build bridges on rubbish.”

People sleeping within reach of the sea has also led to fatalities, according to the community.

In May, a boy who was sleeping on his front porch was swallowed up by the waves at night, said Grant. His body later washed up on the beach.

Slow Progress

Although the Liberian government has pledged to build new homes for displaced families, most have yet to materialize, said the dozens of victims who attended the group meeting chaired by Grant.

In 2016 a visit by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to West Point raised their hopes.

“She brought food and clothes” and promised to rehouse residents in new homes in Monrovia’s nearby VOA neighborhood, Grant explained.

About 30 families were moved to what were supposed to be temporary, prefabricated-type structures, while permanent homes were built, he said.

The families remain in the shelters, but none of the more solid homes have been completed, he added.

“They (the builders) started. Some (houses) reached the roof level, some had windows, some just foundations,” he explained.

About 100 homes were expected to be built, but Grant said the project appears to have been shelved in spite of President Weah’s plans to upgrade West Point.

“I say to the government now please do not change the plan the former president made,” he said.

Siryon from the National Housing Authority said that the “government will resume the project and hopefully complete them (the homes) within the shortest possible time,” adding that it was allocating further funding to the initiative.

Back at her home, Quoh, 28, wonders out loud who in the community will be forced to leave the area next. “We know nothing but here (this area).”

“We can be afraid but what can we do? The sea comes close, sometimes it touches the house. We are losing hope but we hope in God,” she said.

Source: Voice of America

Mali Presidential Election Marred by Violence

Malians went to the polls Sunday, in what’s widely expected to be the first round of Mali’s presidential elections. The atmosphere was calm in the capital but instances of violence were reported in other parts of the country.

Voting has been slow in the Malian capital Bamako. At 8 a.m., there were very few people at the voting stations, in keeping with the low rate of voter card collection by the Bamako electorate. And some were even less lucky.

“I’m Eli Togo. I never got my voter card,” says this voter. “I went to look for it, but it was not available. That’s a shame because I would have loved to cast my vote for my candidate. But let the best win and rule with love for our country in his heart.”

There also were other reasons why Malians could not vote. By early Sunday afternoon, there were reports of attacks in the north and central regions of the country. Timbuktu, Kidal and Mopti reported violent incidents that prevented some people from casting their votes. At least 10 incidents of violence at polling stations and against election officials had been reported by midafternoon.

These are the areas that have presidential candidate Cheikh Modibo Diarra worried, and not just because of the violence. There are two regions where roughly only half of the residents have been receiving there voting cards.

“For Timbuktu, that means some 175,000 votes,” he said. “But when you get to Mopti, you’re talking about 1.1 million voters. If 60 percent of those people can’t vote that means 650,000. Now provided somebody put their hands on those bulletins on behalf of those people that can bias, you’ll agree with me, heavily the outcome of this election.”

On Saturday, the government and the opposition, in the presence of international observers, reached what they called a consensus on the elimination of fictitious voters and a parallel register, which the opposition claimed tilted the election in the government’s favor by a whopping 1.2 million possible votes.

Diarra and his opposition colleagues now hope the contest will be more transparent.

Mali’s vote is crucial for the international community led by France and the United States, which is using the country as a cornerstone for its fight against terrorist groups in the region. Neighbors such as Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, which are also affected by Mali’s instabilities as they have hosted tens of thousands of refugees since the country’s conflict began in 2012, are also keenly watching the outcome.

Malians consider it their civic duty to vote but have little confidence in the current system changing. Some analysts have been predicting an upset, and in terms of names this means that either President Ibrahim Boubacar KeA�ta or his main challenger, SoumaA�la Cisse, would not win more than 50 percent of the vote, leading to a second vote on Aug. 12.

Results of Sunday’s vote may be known by Wednesday, although a final result is not expected until Friday.

Source: Voice of America