The outgone regime was obsessed with adventure tourism. So deep was the obsession that our President could miss an international summit and be seen riding quads or hiking in the Makgadikgadi. So deep was the obsession that a presidential state funeral could be fast-tracked just so the President would not miss out on an event.
There was of course a lighter side to all this. I was in South Africa once and some white guy asked me if it was true that our then President enjoyed jumping from airplanes. I boastingly told him about how obsessed he was with quads, piloting aircraft and all and he found it cool. He imagined we were a very happy country. We had an unconventional president who loved fun. I didn’t tell him alcohol and entertainment events were strictly regulated.
It is the advent of Khawa that reminds me of that obsession. For a fact, I have never attended the event. I have always given it serious thought though. Truth be told, I have always lacked an excuse for a visa. I am told that you would be in breach of the event’s unwritten code if you took a spouse with you. I am told that the unwritten code allows only contraband and of course, plenty of beer. Thanks to Judge Moroka, contraband is not unlawful anymore and the predatory instincts of the hitherto supreme culprits; politicians, CBD folks and tenderpreneurs have been liberated. I imagine therefore, that this year’s event will be well attended and that on the days that follow it, our police stations will be inundated with cases of, missing persons and Threat-to-Kill.
In other words, I am expecting good business after Khawa. There will be bail applications to make and of course a whole lot of divorce cases to do. But that’s not the benefit I would delight in.
Watching road bikes fly with one arm wrapped around contraband and watching the former President win an institutionally match-fixed quad bike race cannot be the sole justification for Khawa. The activity’s business model must be easy to understand and the benefits must be capable of precise quantification. Otherwise, Khawa would be no different to Nyeletso lehuma. Let us face it, we have wasted plenty of money over the last 10 years pursuing horribly fraudulent projects and that must stop. The memory of Nyeletso lehuma is still fresh in our minds. For those of you who chose to look away while your money was being eaten, Nyeletso lehuma was that humongously expensive public relations stunt designed to lie to the public that something was being done about our poverty whilst in effect, our leaders were out on a frolic of their own. You had cattle-posts transformed into tent cities overnight, luxury station wagons traversing the wildest
You had herdsboys being temporarily deprived of their women by civil servants who spent days swearing and threatening poverty with imminent massacre only to return to Gaborone to massacre the national treasury. Had the amounts expended in setting up those tent cities been directly ploughed into meaningful community empowerment projects, and not wasted on senseless fanfare, perhaps a dent could have been made on poverty. But then it was never really about poverty. It was all a lie. It was all about feeding the public a tranquiliser and creating a façade of work when there was none. The Khama regime is gone. The tents are gone. The civil servants are gone. Poverty remains and continues to grow and no one can tell you what the hullabaloo was really all about.
I am not digressing. I am drawing parallels between Khawa and like projects and they are many. I do not say that the event is of no consequence and I do not say that the Masisi regime must pull the plug on adventure tourism. Truth be told, I do not know if these events are of any meaningful consequence. Considering how long they have been running, there must be a noticeable improvement in the lives of the people of the concerned localities or to the national economy. That’s why I want to go next year. I want to get a feel of how the lives of the people in the nearest settlement are.
Millions in public money are expended yearly on the event. Isn’t it time its results are published in concrete figures and the economic benefits laid out. We surely cannot afford to sponsor the adventure tastes of the elite at public expense if that is what Khawa and like events have been all about. General statements about how the event has benefited local communities cannot suffice. But if indeed, significant improvements have been made towards uplifting the lives of local communities then I would return here to thank the organisers.
The national events calendar is congested. The benefits of these events cannot be assumed. If the same cannot be justified by reference to a clear cost-benefit analysis, then the same must be auctioned off to the private sector or scrapped altogether. Otherwise our meagre resources will continue to be wasted on adult games while critical areas of our people suffer.