Botswana’s trophy hunting which was supposed to benefit local communities is instead shifting wealth from them to the country’s big businessmen- Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.
In the latest development, a company owned by business mogul Derek Brink has strong armed an Okavango Delta based community trust to award them an elephant hunting quota at less than a third of the international going rate.
A clutch of documents passed to the Sunday Standard revealed that Brink’s company Old Man’s Pan Propriety Limited bullied Tcheku Community Trust to award them the hunting quota at P200 000 an elephant.
Independent investigations by the Sunday Standard have revealed that international trophy hunters pay more than P600 000 to kill a single elephant in Botswana.
A professional Trophy hunter Leon Kachelhoffer, reportedly paid $50, 000 ( about P608 000 at the current exchange rate) to kill one of Botswana’s biggest tuskers earlier this year.
Documents passed to the Sunday Standard suggest that Tcheku Community Trust which consists of some villages in Shakawe village cowed under pressure after the company warned it would unleash its financial muscle should it increase hunting fees for elephants from P200 000 to P400 000.
Documents gleaned from the Companies Intellectual and Property Authority show that Brink, together with hunter Leon Kachelhoffer are shareholders and the only directors in Old Man’s Pan Propriety Limited.
THE RICH ROBBING THE POOR
This is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern showing how hunting quotas are shifting a massive amount of wealth from poor communities in the Okavango Delta and the Chobe enclave to super rich investors, some with suspected political connections. Besides Brink, other moneyed investors who are rubbing their hands gleefully in anticipation of outsize returns from their investments in the 2022 hunting quotas at the expense of Chobe enclave poor communities is Tlou Safari Lodge owned by the Kader family.
Suspicions of the Kader family’s political connections first made newspaper headlines after it emerged that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) was dispatched to construct a landing airstrip at Nogatshaa inside the Chobe National Park for Hollyhock (PTY) Ltd, a private company owned by businessman Karrim Kader and his wife Banoo Kader. Estimates have put the total cost of the airstrip at P6 million – excluding labour, fuel, mobilization and demobilization by the BDF.
Another beneficiary of the government’s 2022 hunting quota is Shameer Variawa of SV Safaris. It is estimated that between them, the two safari companies will shift in excess of P50 million from poor Chobe enclave communities represented by two community trusts.
Community Trust hunting quotas are sustained by the illusion that they benefit communities. Indications, however are that they are a slight of hand to take from poor and give to the rich.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that while Tlou Safari Lodge and SV Safaris stand to make a return of more than 500%, the two community trusts representing Chobe enclave poor residents will share a little over P 8 million, barely enough to break even.
BRINK DRIVES A STRONG BARGAIN
Brink’s apparent exploitation of poor Okavango communities is all part of a growing trend. In a letter dated 25 January 2022 titled “Offer for an NG 13 Quota,”, Tcheku Community Trust General Manager Kerapetse Bantu Peter wrote to Brink’s Old Man’s Pan indicating that the hunting fee for each elephant was P400 000.00.
The letter states that “With reference made from the attached documents, the Trust leadership is pleased to inform you that you have been awarded with an offer for the 2022 hunting quota for NG 13 with the terms of condition of sale.”
“You are therefore advised to have fully paid the Trust in fourteen days the said amount into their Trust coffers, which failure to abide by the conditions of sale, then the Trust will re-advertise the quota for an open tendering process.”
By the attached documents, Keorapetse was making reference to among others, a letter from the Okavango Sub District Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) which had been addressed to Tcheku Community Trust.
Peter had promised to respond to Sunday Standard’s request for comment but was not available at the time of going to press.
According to the letter from TAC, some of the conditions of sale included among others that, “the Trust will in conjunction with TAC set the price for the animals.”
The letter authored by one M. Keakile on behalf of the TAC-Secretariat further states that another condition was that the reserved price for each elephant was P400 000. 00.
Keakile stated that, “As there is no time to go through the normal process of advertising and tendering, the Trust is advised to get into an agreement with Safari operator interested and meet the conditions of sale.”
Keakile’s letter also states that the animals will be sold to the Safari operator identified by the Trust.
Sunday Standard has obtained information suggesting that Tcheku Community Trust which has a contract with Old Man Pan sought to ‘stick’ to the hunting fees set by the TAC. The information also indicates that the contract signed by the Trust and Old Man’s Pan was found to be defective as it did not have a timeframe. It was also said to be flawed as it was signed without input and advice from TAC.
In a letter dated 9th March 2022, titled, “Counter offer to Tcheku Community Trust for 2022 hunting quota” Kachelhoffer informed the Trust that, “we write to you that you consider that we remain with the original terms and fees of our original agreement.”
He added that, “By so doing, will prevent a lot of unnecessary and costly actions which will disrupt our working relations, the business and reputations of all parties.”
He further indicated that adhering to the original terms of the agreement, “Will allow the Company to fulfill its commitments to the community by collaborating with the Trust in development projects.” Among the projects that he mentioned were purchase of a suitable 4×4 vehicle suitable for transport and emergency’s, assist the trust to construct some roads with the aid of a machine if necessary.
In his attempt to justify why the Trust should consider not increasing the hunting fee from P200 000 per an elephant to P400 000 as proposed by TAC, Kachelhoffer stated that, “I have engaged clients on the possibility of an significant price increase, this has met with resistance.”
Kachelhoffer would not respond to Sunday Standard queries stating that, “I’m in Tuli Block at the moment I’ll be back Sunday night.”
Asked to comment on the apparent short changing of community trusts by big business, the director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Dr Kabelo Senyatso referred this publication to the Ngamiland District Commissioner.
“That is the relevant authority to address your enquiry to,” he said.
In a press statement dated 12 January 2022, Senyatso had indicated that his department would reserve the right to terminate, amend or cancel disposal of quotas should it be established that the agreements between local communities and private operators disadvantaged communities.
“The DWNP reserves the right to review all Agreements proposed after the publication of this quota.” The quota was published on the same month.
Sunday Standard sought to establish among others if the department was aware of allegations that that the contract between Tcheku and Old Man’s Pan was allegedly signed without advice from technical advisory committee (TAC) and that the company had threatened the Trust with legal action if did not issue it with hunting quota for 2022.
For his part, Ngamiland District Commissioner Boamaruri Otlhogile said he was not aware of the “said contract (between the trust and the company) and anything related to it.”
He added that, “Since they fall within Okavango Sub District, please check with Mr Dintwe. He is my supervisee based in Gumare and also chairman of TAC and are supposed to advise the Trust-Community in good faith.”
Dintwe said he was not authorised to speak to the media and referred this publication back to Otlhogile.
Upon being informed that his supervisor had given him the green light to comment, Dintwe referred further queries to Senyatso.
Documents show that as the heated discussions between the Trust and the company boiled over it emerged that the Trust had initially withheld quota instead of issuing it to Old Man’s Pan as it sought to initiate fresh talks on the new quota with a view to increase hunting fees.
In a letter dated 25 March, addressed to the Trust, Kachelhoffer accused the Trust of being in breach of the contract as “we have not been furnished with the quota.”
He warned the Trust to adhere to “recent Community meetings and resolutions of the three Tcheku Trust villages regarding Community consensus to remain in the agreement with Old Man’s Pan (Pty) Ltd (sic).”
He stated that “Our first client has already paid and secured flights, taken two weeks leave from work and incurred other expenses to arrive on the 4th April in Maun.
“Please send us the quota by 12:00h/Midday 28thth of March 2022, failing which we will have no option but to pursue a claim for all costs which we paid to the Trust including but not limited to costs of setting up the secretariat, quota payments for the years 2021 and 2022, reputational damage, loss of income and other ancillaries,” Kachelhoffer warned.
Prior to this letter, Kachelhoffer had also written another letter to the Trust that “we wish to record that there has been back and forth meetings and informal communication regarding the alteration of our standing MoA and the said Addendum (authored by Keakile).
Falling short of advising the Trust to throw out Keakile’s letter, Kachelhoffer stated that, “Third parties such as the Molaodi (District Commissioner) and TAC play purely advisory role-the buck stops with the Trust.”
He said the core responsibility of the Trust as per the agreement or contract, amongst others, is to secure the hunting quota.
“In breach of this, the Trust failed or neglected to secure the quota by 31 2022 as provided for in the agreement,” he said.
Kachelhoffer also indicated that, “Following our meeting with the Molaodi, consultations with the other directors of the company ensued together with engagements with prospective clients (as the proposed prices directly affects the fees payable by them).”
He said, “The conclusion is, any upward changes in the pricing that deviates from fair market value, which your proposed hike from P1, 346,000.00 to P1, 668,000.00 does, would prove unfeasible for the company.”
He further stated that, “ The onus to prove that our agreed price is not fair market value lies on the TAC Board, taking into account that any developments in NG 13have been put in place exclusively at our company’s expenses.”
“Our position is, the company is being extorted as it has already paid over P2 million to the Trust to date not withstanding that no revenue has been realised by the company,”
Kachelhoffer told the Trust to “please uphold your end of the contract and let us proceed with the agreed price of P200, 000.00 per elephant for this season’s quota.”
The reserved price for each leopard was P150 000.
Regarding that he stated that, “We can settle the agreed price for the recently added two leopards and plain’s game in due course.
Kachelhoffer warned that, “In the event that the Trust pursues termination of our MoA then the company reserves its rights in seeking redress in the courts of law to claim all funds invested to date, loss of business and reputational loss to the brand as marketing had taken place.”
He instructed the Trust to, “Urgently convene and respond to this letter on or before 11th March 2022. If we do not hear from you by this date, then we will have no option but to hand this matter over to our lawyers.”
The documents suggest that, weary of the looming legal action, the Trust eventually yielded to the company’s demands by ensuring that it settles for P200 000 per an elephant instead of P400 000 as proposed by TAC.
This is revealed in a letter dated 14 March 2022, Tcheku Community Trust Keorapetse Bantu Peter in which he informed Old Man’s Pan directors that the, “Trust on behalf of the Community has entered into an agreement with yourselves as Old Man’s Pan Pty Ltd to utilise the hunting quota for NG13 as agreed.”
Conceding Peter stated that, “We cede to the market value of BW200 000.00 (two hundred thousand pula only) per an elephant and additional payment for two leopards and game plains to total amount of P1 346 000.00. (One million three hundred and forty six thousand pula only).”
He added that, “We hereby commit to obtaining the hunting quota for NG13 to issue to Old Man’s Pan Pty Ltd on or before the 21st March 2022.”
This article by Khonani Ontebetse was first published by The Sunday Standard on 11 May 2022.
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