I wish to weigh in my contribution to the raging debate regarding the just ended edition of the Kalahari Toyota 1000 Race, Botswana Desert Race, Mmantshwabise or whatever name is really the correct one and the negative connotations that hang on this otherwise important event.
It helps to note that this is a collection of all people with all characters from all cultures with all motives; some good and some obviously not so desirable. Naturally it can’t be another day in the office for anybody. It is an Adventure Tourism which then demands that it be viewed and treated as such. It calls for specific and fitting organisational structure with specified and well defined roles for all the stake holders so that it fulfils its intended purpose: That is, an Adventure Tourism! There should not be any confusion of roles between Toyota, Botswana Tourism Organisation, Jwaneng Town Council and others.
The police should be aware that they have more clients in town and request for reinforcements to cater for that; the local hospital should be aware that they have more clients in town and stock more resources to cater for that; the town council should be aware that they have more clients in town which have the potential to exert more stress on the amenities available and make attempts to expand/increase the service points. Small business people should be inducted on ways of good customer service to the visitors in town to really make their interaction a good experience.
The taxi operator community can be refined into very courteous people and be organised into day and night service providers to cover the town 24/7 to ensure that nobody is ever left at the mercy of some strangers as they criss cross the town following observatories and entertainment centres.
With what transpired in the just ended race I can’t help but wonder; why are we so unfortunate even in the midst of good fortunes? Why do we lose out even in things in which we should otherwise gain? Why are we seemingly carrying the curse of good starts and bad endings? Good intentions that turn out horribly wrong! What immediately comes to mind here is the famous or infamous Feng Gue Glass Plant, The Morupule B saga and the demise of BCL mine with all its untold collateral damages.
Let’s focus on the issue under discussion; Toyota 1000 Desert Race with its fluid locations! Fluid because in the short space of time it has moved venues from around Gaborone to Jwaneng and it is set to move yet again due to the problems which accompany it wherever it goes.
From where I stand these are but only management problems. If indeed they are management issues it means the whole event can be perfected with only good management. Moving it around may not necessarily obliterate its inherent problems, but good management will. Save for its management problems the event is very popular with the local population.
They love it and they identify with it. It is always the residents of the host area who feel short charged in that they have to put up with the myriad of problems that come with this event.
Eliminating these problems will change the outlook of the whole event so that it is embraced instead of resented by the local communities. With proper management they will love it and always look forward to the next edition of it. The purportedly unhappy nation of Botswana need such an event to elevate their low morale. After changing two locations in a short space of roughly two decades, where will it go next? It left Mmantshwabise due to the outcry of the local community there. Where will it go next?
This is where I wish to make a case for Jwaneng, the current location as a good place to host this race. If my views make sense to many as I wish they would, then J. Town must hold on to the race and really make it their own. My reasons are as follows:
Jwaneng is the last outpost to the Kalahari desert.
Jwaneng have adequate functional amenities to host many guests; at least for a weekend.
For people of the world just stepping on the locality of the world’s number one diamond producer by value is a memorable feat. For them it will be achieving two things in just one trip.
Jwaneng is well within reach of ordinary population, unlike other calendar events which are held in far flung areas which renders them out of reach for the common man.
Jwaneng have a huge open space right in the centre of town, adjacent to the shopping malls and the bus terminus complete with its public ablutions and a hospital just nearby. This open space can be used to host all the guests in rented tents in the mould of “Camp Dubai” in Bobonong a while ago. Interested entities can be invited to undertake this money generating activity of renting out readily pitched tents. Thus providing a “Spectator village ” complete with an information desk and a satellite police post. This will increase the economic benefits that can be accrued from this otherwise great event.
The police will easily watch over the guests in this centrally located
It would be easier to persuade the population of Jwaneng into a common code of conduct that is so receptive to the guests since they are predominantly colleagues.
Truly the death of a child in the recent edition of the race is a sad loss to the family and the nation at large. My heart goes out to the bereaved family; however this tragedy should prompt all of us to plug the gaps in this otherwise good event. Other countries are watching these developments or flops thereof with keen interests.
They can’t wait to lay their hands on it and put it to good use; to succeed where we have failed. Are we really ready to be famous for having lost an opportunity that somebody else is putting to good use and benefiting from? Maybe my country men are but I am not.
I would feel bad when another country become famous, get liked and respected for an event that we failed to manage well here in Botswana. In the few places of the world I’ve been to, someone will almost always make a good comment about a “Botswana Diamond” and it always make me feel very proud. After all I owe my academic and professional development to a Botswana Diamond myself.
During Mpule Kwelagobe’s reign as Miss World we had a great chance of showcasing our unique qualities as the reigning country is given the horner to host the subsequent walk on the ramp. But in our style we failed. Other countries wished for that opportunity to host it; to expose themselves and what they can offer to the world; to market themselves. You know what? They got the chance handed to them by us on a silver platter.
Nobody had to conspire to falter us at this great chance.
It is us who said “no, we don’t have enough financial resources to hold an event of that magnitude .” However, I am certain that we equally needed to be known; to market ourselves; to want people to wish to do business with us. To be exposed from the obscurity of South Africa and Gerrie Cotzee, Namibia and Frankie Fredricks, Mozambique and Maria Mutola, Zambia and Kalusha Bwala, Zimbabwe and Peter Ndlovu. It is for these reasons that I feel we could have pulled our meagre resources together to achieve this one’s-in-a life-time chance to put ourselves on the global stage. The positive fall out of all that would have been so huge and the long lasting benefits that would accrue from it could not be overemphasised. Was it a costly exercise? Yes! Anything good does not sell cheap.
You pay a good price for a good product, and then proceed to gain long term benefits from such a transaction. Of course we need to evaluate and prioritise but all indications point to a positive outcome that would result from such an adventure. Otherwise why did other countries scamper to grab that opportunity? We could have taken the plunge!
What I would do.
Without undermining the rationale of passing the chance at that time, this is what I would do if I had the chance to deal with that situation:
-I would tap from our foreign reserves and ask our friends in the international communities to help us. -I would solicit help from our little private sector to support the effort in their little ways too. Hopefully they would come on board seeking to gain mileage from the positive fall out of such a great and rare event on our home soil. -I would then bring in an expert events company to erect a huge marquee in one of the islands in our delta, as big as Ditshupo Hall, as the venue for the pageant.
-The ladies would be in camp in the delta for their drills and preparations so as to showcase our pristine beauty to the world.
-They would go on luxury cruises in our rivers against our plush background teeming with wild animals. The background that does not have an equal anywhere in the world. Which is situated in the world’s only inland delta: The Okavango Delta! -On the day of the pageant patrons would be flown in from hotels around the country to come for the contest.
Our foreign reserves have improved even more ever since the time of Mpule’s reign. I propose that we throw our hat in the ring and attempt to host the next contest.
If we could not host it back then, we can right now. The story would pass for a great read around the whole world too: “a little country in a poor continent has the most beautiful woman in the world; and they brought us to experience their magical country; and there’s nothing quite like it!” I am informed by my fair appreciation of facts and figures as they appear currently, not because I’m smarter than anybody, so I guess that qualifies me to suggest.