An elephant carcass lies at the edge of a field in Legotlhwana village, northeast Botswana — evidence of the desperation and anger felt by a farmer whose crops have been repeatedly destroyed.
Ishmael Simasiku, 71, indignantly recounts how he was guarding his field as he does every night when an elephant broke through the perimeter fence and helped itself to his watermelons.
Simasiku’s attempts to repel the elephant using torchlights and gunshots fired into the air were futile. The animal only retreated briefly and returned.
Fed up, he shot it dead on May 14.
“The elephant came from the forest and was destroying my crops. The (sports hunting) ban made my life worse,” said Simasiku, holding a watermelon half-eaten by an elephant.
The retired policeman in this village near the border with Namibia has seen his corn harvest fall by about 90 per cent over recent years as elephant numbers have boomed.
Under the country’s wildlife conservation policy, Botswana’s elephant population has increased nearly 10-fold since 1970, to 130,000 today, according to the UN Environment Programme.
As elephants grazed behind him in Chobe National Park , Thebeyakgosi Horatius, head of the park’s human-wildlife conflict office, confirms that elephants are “killing people (and) destroying their crops”.
His department runs a 24-hour emergency response team to react to elephant attacks.
Last month, the government lifted a blanket hunting ban, imposed in 2014 by then-president Ian Khama, on the grounds that elephant numbers were growing.
The decision angered many conservationists and stirred up a political hornet’s nest as elections loom later this year.
“To me, it’s so sad and extremely painful that all these years’ work to build up to what we had achieved is being put in reverse,” Khama told reporters by telephone.
“Our tourism is wildlife-based. We have already seen it taking a hit. I’m told our numbers have dropped by 10 per cent since they started talking about (re-starting hunting).”
Locals appeal for understanding –
Tourism is the second largest contributor to Botswana’s GDP after diamonds.
But an end to the ban on sports hunting has been welcomed by many Botswanans.
On April 26, Merafhe Shamukuni, 53, was walking home down a steep pathway in Kasane, Botswana’s wildlife tourist town, when he was attacked and killed by an elephant.
His sister, Dorcus Shamukuni, 49, tearfully remembers her brother who worked as a builder and cared for their wheelchair-bound father.
“No one expected he was going to die that way,” said Shamukuni.
While global conservationists are up in arms over the resumption of hunting, locals appeal for understanding over problems caused by freely roaming elephants which live unfenced in Botswana.
“We are here in Africa, facing this on a daily basis (and) all they are interested in is to come and see those animals for a few hours and go back where they are comfortable.
“We are in trouble, something really has to be done,” said Shamukuni, who works at a four-star hotel in Kasane.
“I work in tourism, I know the importance of animals…but I don’t see the reason they should be killing us in this manner.
“Human beings should be controlling the animals, not animals controlling us.”
At least, 34 people have been killed by elephants since the hunting ban came into effect — 15 of them killed last year alone when 9,000 properties were destroyed, according to government statistics.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, on a visit to the United States, recently tweeted of another death from elephant trampling.
“The tragedy comes virtually 24 hours after I responded to an elephant protester in Las Vegas and now a brother has fallen,” he said.
Locals in Chobe district, home to Botswana’s largest concentration of elephants, fear being overrun.
“I’m so sick of people who say we should not kill. When we had hunting, we never had elephants coming into our villages,” said safari guide Petros Tshekonyane, 48, who recently found an elephant devouring his garden.
“It has to come to an end. This is too much. I can’t continue planting for elephants.”
Poaching on the rise? –
Walking around after sunset is risky, and residents wake up to broken fences and destroyed vegetable patches.
Frank Limbo, 48, is a farmer from Satau village who has survived both an elephant and a lion attack.
“One way of controlling is hunting, it has been done in the past,” he said.
Kavimba village’s chief, Josephat Mwezi, 74, said elephants were previously found only in parks “but now they are where we live. We are not after their extinction. We want them… confined to their areas.”
Community activist, Watson Mabuku admits that poaching has increased in recent years because “we were deprived of our source of protein” when hunting was outlawed.
Hunting resumption will see 400 permits issued annually.
But according to Khama, it will have little effect in reducing the population because around 650 calves are born each year.
He described most of the animals as “refugees” fleeing poaching in Angola and Zambia and said they should be encouraged to return to their home ranges.
Masisi’s plan to re-start hunting could find favour with villagers five months ahead of what could be a tough election for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
But Amos Mabuku, who heads a community conservation charity involving 5,000 families in Chobe district, dismisses any link between elections and hunting.
“It’s not a question of politics, it’s about sustainable use of natural resources and caring for your people,” said Mabuku.
How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy
Hundreds of local traders gather each day at Senga only to find that fish populations are falling in Lake Malawi
On the shores of Lake Malawi, a crowd eagerly awaits the arrival of a white and yellow cedar wood boat carrying its haul.
The crew of six deliver a single net of chambo, sardine and tiny usipa fish from the boat, just one of 72 vessels that land their catch every day on the beach at Senga Bay.
But overfishing and climate change have taken their toll.
Hundreds of local traders gather each morning and afternoon at Senga only to find that fish populations are falling in Lake Malawi, Africa’s third-largest body of freshwater.
“We were hoping to catch a half-boat full or maybe a quarter-boat… but I’m afraid the fish are dwindling in numbers,” port manager Alfred Banda told reporters staring wearily at the small catch as it was dragged onto the sand.
“Before, we used to catch a full boat but now we are struggling,” he said, adding that a full boat would earn a team of between six and 12 fishermen about $300.
Bordering three countries — Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique — Lake Malawi stretches across more than 29,000 square kilometres (11,200 square miles) with over 1,000 species of fish.
The 14,000 people living at Senga Bay depend on the lake for food and for their livelihood.
“Seven years ago there was lots more fish than today. In 2019, it is different. There’s no fish in the water,” trader Katrina Male, a 40-year-old mother of six, told reporters as she stalked the nets of newly brought in fish seeking the best deal.
“The fish nowadays are more expensive, because they are becoming scarce,” Male said. “Some children have stopped going to school because their parents can’t find the money.”
‘No alternative to fishing’ –
For both locals and climate experts, declining fish numbers reflect a combination of environmental change and overfishing that augurs ill for the future.
The World Bank ranks Malawi among the top 10 at-risk countries in Africa to climate change, with cyclones and floods among the major threats.
Senga community leader, John White Said says increasing gale-force winds and torrential rains have made it harder for fishermen on the lake.
“Our men can’t catch fish because of wind which is much stronger than before,” he said, adding that the rains are increasingly unpredictable on the lake.
“The rain before would not destroy houses and nature but now it comes with full power, destroying everything and that affects the water as well.”
According to USAID, the number of rainfalls incidents in the country is likely to decrease — but each rainfall will be more intense, leading to droughts and floods.
The threat was highlighted in March when Malawi was hit by torrential rains from Cyclone Idai, killing 59 people. The storm also cut a swathe through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, leaving nearly 1,000 dead.
On top of the environmental impact, the number of fishermen in Senga had doubled in the last 10 years due to the lack of other jobs, Said said.
“There is no alternative to fishing.”
One of the few to benefit is 38-year-old boat owner Salim Jackson, who rents out his two vessels.
“I got into fishing 13 years ago because I had no other option, I never went to school. But it has brought me good money,” he said.
‘Unsustainable fishing practices’ –
By sunset, the balls of fishing net lay stretched out on the beach and both buyers and fishermen negotiate prices.
Traders take their purchases in buckets to makeshift reed tables to be dried, smoked, fried or boiled in preparation for the market.
“Declining fish catches are mainly due to unsustainable fishing practices,” said Sosten Chiotha, a Malawian environmental science professor who works for the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) action group.
“Overfishing is a challenge in Lake Malawi (but) there are efforts on co-management and closed seasons to ensure that the fishery recovers.”
Chiotha added that climate change was hitting Malawi with “increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the major ecosystems including lakes.”
That leaves Malawi’s agriculture-based economy sharply vulnerable to climatic events and entrenched poverty heightens pressure on the environment.
Wearing a black silk thawb robe and white kufi cap, Said stands tall on Senga beach, surveying the scene around him.
“I’m worried,” he said. “In Malawi, most people depend on fishing financially and as a cheap food source.
“The men have to cast their nets further and further away from the beach.”
South Africa’s “nyaope” heroin and the dangers of addiction
Heroin has been wreaking havoc in South Africa’s cities and rural areas since the early 2000s
After helping an elderly woman load her bags into a mini-bus taxi at a busy intersection in Soweto, a scrawny and strung-out young man is rewarded with a few coins for his efforts.
High on “nyaope”, a street drug whose main ingredient is heroin, he is determined to make R30 within the next two hours before withdrawal symptoms start to creep in.
“It has been 11 years straight up, just smoking non-stop,” he told reporters, as he drew on a cigarette (tobacco) with his trembling hands.
“The thing that made me start smoking nyaope was stress, I had too much stress in my life. So I ended up relying on nyaope to calm me down,” said the frail and distant-eyed 28-year-old.
Heroin has been wreaking havoc in South Africa’s cities and rural areas since the early 2000s, according to a recent report by ENACT, an EU-funded project against cross-border organised crime.
Highly addictive, the nyaope cocktail is made of heroin cut with methamphetamine, codeine, and other substances reputedly ranging from anti-retroviral drugs to even powder from flat-screen televisions.
Smoked in a rolled joint laced with marijuana, or else liquidised and injected, it often leaves users with zombie-like sleepiness.
“That is why you find guys at street corners always sleeping. From the moment when you get the fix, you forget all the problems,” said the nyaope user in Soweto, a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
The drug is known as “unga” in the Western Cape, “spices” or “whoonga” in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, and “nyaope” in Gauteng, the province that is home to both Johannesburg and Pretoria.
‘Underpinning criminal economy’ –
The ENACT report — “Hiding in Plain Sight: Heroin’s Stealthy Takeover of South Africa” — estimates there are more than 100,000 regular heroin users in South Africa and a trafficking market generating about R3.6 billion in annual revenue.
“Heroin is a key commodity underpinning the criminal economy in South Africa and has facilitated the expansion of the criminal economy,” report author Simone Haysom said.
“The drug trade has had the most destructive effect in poor communities,” she added.
Heroin moves from Afghanistan, which is the world’s top grower of the poppy from which heroin is produced, across the Indian Ocean to east Africa, down through southern Africa and then inland for distribution.
“For 50 metres (yards) around us here, you can buy any drug. It’s a known fact,” Robert Michel, the frustrated director at the non-profit Outreach Foundation, told reporters at their offices in a churchyard in Johannesburg’s Hillbrow district.
Shaun Shelly, founder of the SA Drug Policy Week awareness programme, agreed, saying “as a total stranger you could probably get heroin there in 15 minutes on the street.”
In Hillbrow, one of the most notorious crime-ridden neighbourhoods in downtown Johannesburg, heroin peddling is mostly done by gangs, organised crime syndicates, and corrupt police.
“The worst part of it is that the police is not really doing anything. In many cases, what we hear is that the police and the drug dealers are working hand in hand,” Michel said.
Child addicts –
The scourge has reached many children around age 15, and even some as young as nine, according to Hillbrow social worker Sizwe Bottoman.
“Others have stopped at school as it affects their brain so badly to an extent that they don’t concentrate,” she said.
Last month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed that a “national drug master plan” would reduce demand, cut off supply and “ultimately free our young people from the harm that they cause.”
He said he was alarmed that “the average age of a drug user is getting younger and younger.”
“Drugs such as nyaope… are fuelling violence, crime, suicide, and risky sexual behaviour,” the president said.
South Africa’s drug problem is also exacerbated by poor social services and its youth unemployment rate of over 50 per cent.
Having previously beaten addiction to crystal methamphetamine and the drug Mandrax, Cape Townian Ashley Abrahams, 38, said he regrets the day he started using heroin 10 years ago.
“It’s not easy to stay clean. You have to be busy, you have to get work,” the homeless man told reporters as he whipped out the teaspoon and lighter he uses to get high.
“Somebody who is on drugs, goes into rehab, comes back onto the streets, and has no prospect of finding a job — and within days gets back into using drugs,” the Outreach Foundation’s Michel said.
“It’s a terrible cycle to break out of.”
Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt
A team of archaeologists had uncovered sarcophagi and the remains of an ancient wall dating back some 4,000 years ago.
Egypt on Saturday opened two ancient pyramids south of the capital Cairo and unveiled a collection of newly found sarcophagi, some containing well-preserved mummies.
Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told reporters the Bent Pyramid of King Sneferu, the first pharaoh of Egypt’s 4th dynasty, and a nearby pyramid would be reopened to visitors for the first time since 1965.
He also said a team of archaeologists had uncovered sarcophagi and the remains of an ancient wall dating back to the Middle Kingdom some 4,000 years ago.
The finds were made during excavation work in the royal necropolis of Dahshur on the west bank of the Nile River, in an area home to some of Egypt’s oldest pyramids.
“Several stone, clay and wooden sarcophagi were found and some contain mummies in good condition,” the antiquities ministry said in a statement.
The ancient wall stretches some 60 metres and is situated south of the pyramid of 12th dynasty pharaoh King Amenemhat II, also in the Dahshur necropolis.
The finds also included funerary masks as well as tools dating back to the Late Period — which spanned almost 300 years up to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BC — used for cutting stones, the ministry said.
Egypt has in recent years sought to promote archaeological discoveries across the country in a bid to revive tourism, which took a hit from the turmoil that followed its 2011 uprising.
Zambian President fires finance minister
Africa in 60 – July 15, 2019
DR Congo urges calm after Ebola outbreak in Goma city
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate climbs to 175%
Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified
Rwanda’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity
Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court
Three suicide bombers kill over 30 people in Nigeria
Nigeria’s apex bank to offer seven-year loans to youth corps members
Sand Miners threaten Morocco’s coastline
Feature Stories & News2 months ago
Egypt’s new Ramadan series-streaming app scrutinised by critics
Lifestyle News & Gists5 months ago
Five killed in South Africa coal mine blast, others trapped
Op-Ed6 months ago
What are the critical issues facing Africa in 2019?
Top Story5 months ago
Spotting fake news: Which is the real video of VP Osinbajo’s chopper incident?
Top Story3 months ago
Boat capsize: DR Congo declares national mourning over 13 dead, 114 missing
Op-Ed6 months ago
What Brexit means for Africa
Culture & Tourism6 months ago
The market in Togo where money doesn’t change hands
Op-Ed6 months ago
For the record: Ahaji Shehu Shagari (1925-2018)