OKONGO, 30 APR – The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta said he will not apologise for remarks he made regarding compensation for victims of crocodile and hippopotamus attacks while swimming.
Shifeta, while launching the Maurus Nekaro Conservancy in the Kavango West Region last month, said his ministry will not pay N$ 100 000 for people killed by crocodiles and hippos while swimming or bathing in rivers, because that is a situation that can be avoided.
The minister’s remarks provoked a public outcry from residents in the riverside communities including the Kavango East and Zambezi regional leaders, some of whom labelled his remarks as insensitive to those living in these communities as they depend on the river to sustain their livelihoods.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of equipment for human-wildlife conflict management at Omauni in the Okongo Constituency of the Ohangwena Region on Saturday, Shifeta warned against the penetration of areas where predators are being kept, be it in conservancy areas or national parks, including rivers.
“I will not apologise on that. I want people to be alive. If a person swims in the river or washes while standing in water while knowing that there are crocodiles and hippos in the river, we will definitely not pay N$ 100 000,” he said.
Shifeta emphasised that he is not stopping people from swimming, fetching water or fishing, however people should not endanger themselves by doing so at the danger zone areas.
He further noted that a person’s life cannot be replaced by any amount of money, therefore it is very important for people to be aware of predators in various areas.
Shifeta said it must be clear that it is not Government’s policy to provide compensation to farmers or communities for losses due to wild animals, as compensation schemes implemented elsewhere have proved to be very problematic and open to abuse.
He added that there is a need to find other means to offset the losses caused by wild animals and at the same time, build the self-reliance of farmers and communities.
“The objective of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Self-Reliance Scheme is for Government to meet its moral obligation of supporting a family who lost a member to certain species of wild animals, under the condition the affected person could not reasonably have been expected to defend himself or herself or to avoid the incident, and where the family has to incur costs for a funeral and related costs,” Shifeta explained.