Concern over ‘Mantshwabisi’ status

Going away: The Desert race has been scheduled for Upington, South Africa FILE: PIC
Going away: The Desert race has been scheduled for Upington, South Africa FILE: PIC

A decision over the hosting rights of this year’s edition of the 1000 Toyota Desert Race (TDR) is blurred as Selebi-Phikwe and Upington in South Africa are in a tussle.

The iconic event, commonly called 'Mantshwabisi', was the first time in more than 30-years hosted outside country's borders last year, when it was held in Upington in Northern Cape. It was deemed unviable to hold the competition in Botswana at a time when authorities had placed travel restrictions and a ban on sports activities. The TDR was cancelled in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The race forms round three of the Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) Championship and the SA Cross-country Championship Series (SACCS). Mantshwabisi was expected to return to Botswana after Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) president, Kagiso Modibedi gave an assurance last year.

BMS is in the middle of a five-year agreement involving SACCS, SPEDU and Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) to host the race in Selebi-Phikwe. The contract in its fourth year and with two editions already cancelled, fears are growing Botswana could have lost the hosting rights to the neighbouring country. As per the SACCS 2022 season calendar, the TDR has been lined up for Upington once again from June 24-26, 2022. This will be the second consecutive time the iconic race is held outside the country.

SPEDU has, however, said stakeholders are in talks over hosting the race with a decision yet to be taken. “Please be informed that SPEDU and other key stakeholders are still in consultations regarding the 1000 Toyota Desert Race (TDR). We will keep you informed once our engagements are concluded either through a press release or responding to your media enquiry,” SPEDU corporate communications manager, Sheillah Moribame-Moakofi responded to Mmegi Sport’s written enquiry.

BMS had not yet responded to Mmegi Sport's questions on the status of the race.

The public relations officer, Daryll Ellitson had acknowledged receiving this newspaper’s questions and said were taken before the BMS executive committee. The TDR holds a record as the most followed sporting event in Botswana with an estimated P100,000 spectators watching the competition over three days. Since 1993, the race has been held in various places including Mantshwabisi, Kumakwane and Jwaneng.

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