BIG PLANS: Shell has reserved another $250m for drilling exploration wells in the Karoo. Picture: THE HERALD
BIG PLANS: Fracking is yet another challenge that Bushmen face in Botswana. Picture: THE HERALD

I HAVE found a second reason, distinct from diamond mining, unexposed until now, for the Botswana government’s determination to remove all Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve: fracking.

One of my expanding flock of albatrosses flew in this week with startling information about exploration potentially leading to hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas.

Companies have flooded into Botswana in recent years.

One of these companies, the Australian-based Tamboran Resources, is drilling in the Gemsbok Basin near the Kgalagadi district.

According to Tamboran’s website, which inconveniently leaves blank any information about the project’s status, a drilling programme undertaken by US consultants estimates a 196-trillion cubic feet gas-in-place resource.

Exxaro Coal, wholly owned by JSE-listed Exxaro Resources, is involved in a joint venture with a subsidiary (Sekaname) of Kalahari Energy, which is in turn supported by a US government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, to develop a coal-bed methane exploration programme in the Kalahari Karoo Basin.

In addition to the significant diamond deposits being mined by Gem Diamonds, 45km inside the Central Kalahari Reserve, these untapped resources underline the hostile attitude of Botswana’s government to the First People of the Kalahari.

Attempts to remove the Bushmen were challenged in a succession of court cases, all of which the government lost, bar the last, which was thrown out on a technicality. The Bushmen’s UK barrister, Gordon Bennett, was refused entry to Botswana just ahead of his appearance representing the Bushmen in that final, all-important case.

One of the First People’s leaders, Roy Sesana, aged about 80, wears a T-shirt bearing the provocative slogan: "Botswana Police Shoot Bushmen." Asked about it, he said a group were attempting to take food and water to others in the reserve when they were confronted by police and soldiers. "Then they start shooting us. They broke someone’s jaw with a rubber bullet and shot tear gas at the others, who ran away. I was then pulled out of the car, handcuffed, punched in the face, and when I fell down the police jumped on top of my shoulders. That’s why I have this T-shirt, to show you how the government deals with the Kua."

There’s little doubt the Bushmen roamed widely across Southern Africa long before, probably thousands of years before, any others arrived in the region.

They have long been adept at dealing with the vagaries of nature and weather. These First People may well have been among the very first to develop spiritual and then religious consciousness. They regard the land with awe.

"What makes the land to be so important," says Sesana, "is that my forebears were born on it and have died here and we have more experience of living on it. When we are hungry we know where to find food to survive. During rain time we know that there is a lot of different kind of food, and we are just like people who live in town who will go to butchers and supermarkets. Our land is rich in food and animals. That’s why we like this land. All the people we have buried here are our hospitals, and just calling their names is like taking an injection."

The forced, brutal, removals of the First People from tiny settlements in the reserve to what the albatross said was a hell hole called New Xade, is an extraordinary blot on Botswana’s reputation as an exceptional African country.

It is all accounted for, of course, in the endless pursuit of money. and wealth.


Experts are not to be relied on

TWELVE years ago Angus Westley invested R20,000 with Sanlam in an offshore policy for his daughter’s university education. When he looked at the policy this year he was "shocked to see that the investment had devalued to around R19,000".

Westley compared the outcome with what he describes as "a comparable investment" through another long-term savings group which delivered "a return of over 44% over 11 years, which extrapolates to almost 50% over 12 years".

Sanlam’s response is that the performance of its Offshore Equity Fund is governed by offshore markets and movements in the rand/dollar exchange rate. It says this makes returns on the portfolio volatile.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) index, a standard for comparisons of international equity performance, delivered a 30% increase over the 12 years, an average of 2.2% a year. But Hennie de Villiers, CE of Sanlam’s individual life and segment solutions, says it is important to note "that each individual portfolio will perform according to the composition of the specific portfolio. Sanlam dealt with Mr Westley’s investment according to the mandate given to us."

The MSCI is merely a guide.

A startling aspect of what amounts to an investment policy failure is that, had Westley invested the same sum on the same date in a local equity fund, the value of the policy on October 23 this year would have been R72,034.

So why did Westley choose to go the international route?

"When I made the decision the rand was around R7.70 to the US dollar. I took a long-term view and figured that I would be adequately protected if I spread the investment across four or five international bourses. It’s certainly worked with regard to the exchange rate, where I gained around 30%. But even with that advantage, Sanlam has managed to lose money."

Sanlam says Westley got annual updates on the investment and De Villiers adds that: "The product does allow policyholders to switch between investment funds."

Westley accepts that it is "my responsibility to review annually (and) not just expect that a fund manager may be able to show (acceptable) returns over 12 years".

This is a story with a warning: expecting a fund manager to care for investments as though they are his own is a pipe dream. Nothing derogates from an investor’s primary responsibility to look after himself. No one else will ever do it as well. Simply assuming a fund manager will do the job may come with an unwelcome price tag.

If inflation is factored in, Westley has taken an ice-cold bath.