Former Botswana president accused of instigating hunting ban

Former Botswana president Ian Seretse Khama.

Former Botswana president Ian Seretse Khama.

Published Mar 10, 2024


Former Botswana president Ian Seretse Khama has been accused by Botswana government officials of working with UK lawmakers to enact a UK ban on trophy hunting imports in the UK.

Early this year, the UK government announced the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, a private member’s bill introduced by Henry Smith MP, which seeks to put a ban on the import of hunting trophies from species of conservation concern.

During a media briefing held at Cresta Hotel in Gabarone this weekend, recently appointed Botswana Minister of Environment and Tourism Dumezweni Mthimkhulu told journalists that Khama’s anti-hunting campaigns in the UK and Europe were the reason for the proposed ban on trophy hunting as promoted by a lobby group called called All Party Parliament Group (APPG).

“This trophy ban, we have heard that it is being championed by our former president Khama. We love him as Botswana and gave him all the opportunities from birth until he left office.

“Why is he lobbying for the ban on trophy hunting, which brings earnings to local communities, creates employment and brings income for the Batswana? We are told that Khama has a heavy interest in non-consumptive tourism. We used to hold him in high esteem, hold him like a deity, but now he is working against the Batswana national interest and that of the region,” Mthimkhulu told reporters from the region.

Mthimkhulu accused Khama of having a vested interest in the tourism sector, saying instead of using his influence to sabotage the country of his birth, he should rather turn himself in and face up to his crimes.

Three years ago, Khama fled to South Africa amid a warrant of arrest for corruption, money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. However, he has denied some of the allegations against him and refused to return to the country of his birth saying he fears for his life.

“Recently there was a court judgment which declared him as a fugitive from justice. He knows that there is an arrest warrant issued against him.He chose not to honour it. The government does not want to bring him over here in handcuffs because we respect him as our former president.

“We wanted to initiate extradition processes. We don’t want to arrest him in South Africa, put him behind bars and bring him here. We will not tolerate that kind of a person. Do you want to tell me that that kind of a person is credible person to go and attack an industry that pertains to the lives of the people that he once led? I am told that he has interests in the trophy and tourism industry. When we look at his actions ... and tell me that this man has chosen Western capital and that Batswana’s lives should be destroyed ...” he said.

The minister’s sentiments were shared by Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BPWA) chairperson Leonard Matenje, who said the country has noted with concern Khama’s involvement in the ban.

“The BPWA notes with concern the involvement of former president Ian Seretse Khama and other international celebrities in the proposed hunting trophies (Import Prohibition Bill) to ban the import of hunting trophies in the UK. Whereas, the ban on the import of hunting trophies into the UK will impact negatively on the communities dependent on income of management of hunting in Africa, it is ironic that it will not impact the annual domestic market and export of thousands of red deer trophies from the UK to other countries,” Matenje said.

Mthimkhulu and other Botswana officials have indicated that the proposed ban would have dire consequences not only for Botswana, but for the entire SADC region that survives on trophy hunting.

Attempts to get comment from Khama were unsuccessful at the time of going to print.

The arrest warrant for alleged possession of illegal firearms against the former president was issued in 2022 after the judge issued an order that he should be arrested on sight.

The now 72-year-old fled the country in 2021 to South Africa.

The Star

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