Mantshwabisi relocation blamed on third parties

Raising dust: The event will be held in South Africa for the second year running PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Raising dust: The event will be held in South Africa for the second year running PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The non-sporting parties are blamed for the relocation of the 1000 Toyota Desert Race (TDR) from Botswana to South Africa. The iconic race started in 1981 in South Africa as a marathon event in the then Donaldson cross-country championship, now South Africa Cross-country Championship Series (SACCS).

The event was moved to Botswana in 1992 for a better terrain. Under the name Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, the race was held in places around Gaborone as race headquarters were staged at Mantshwabisi which gave birth to the event's widely used name. It was also held in Kumakwane until a request by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) to move the race to Jwaneng and then Selebi-Phikwe.

The race attracted over a 100,000 spectators every year, making it the best attended sporting activity in the country. In 2019, 'Mantswabisi' was moved to Selebi-Phikwe in an effort to revive the 'dead' coal-mining town after a five-year deal was penned by SACCS, BTO, SPEDU and the Botswana Motor Sport (BMS). Selebi-Phikwe, however, only managed to host a single edition of the TDR in 2019, as in 2020 the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the race. A year later in 2021, Phikwe was deemed not suitable to host the race due to the restrictions on sporting activities imposed by the government. Mantshwabisi was then moved to Upington in South Africa's Northern Cape. For a second year running, the race will once again be held in Upington. This is despite the government relaxing restrictions on sport and with a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2019 still in place, questions as to why Upington again, have been raised.

Last week, the BTO, in statement said the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has made it complex for Selebi-Phikwe to host this year's edition. BTO also gave assurance that the race will return in 2023 should the COVID-19 situation stabilise. National team biker, Kagiso Stephens on his Facebook page called out BTO for dishonesty. He said both riders from Botswana and South Africa had never been content with the terrain in Selebi-Phikwe and the decision to relocate Matshwabisi from Jwaneng was to appease non-sporting parties. "They (BTO) lack condour before the public, the competitors and motorsport enthusiasts across.

They must tell out the real reason why TDR is no longer held in Botswana. Social events and gatherings, sports competitions are presently not subject amidst COVID-19 pandemic. BTO must come out clear and tell reasons. They must further distance themselves from being involved technically with the organisation of sports.

That's not their mandate," the Roof of Africa competitor wrote. Mmegi Sport has been informed that after the 2019, a number of competitors under the SACCS complained about Selebi-Phikwe, which they termed 'machine-unfriendly'. Speaking to this publication, BMS president, Kagiso Modibedi expressed hope there would be discussions to bring the race back to Botswana. "To be honest there has been only one meeting with regards to that (MOA) and that was in 2021. I am sure we will be sitting down soon for more discussions," he said. Modibedi said his executive committee came into office whilst the MOA was already signed hence their hands are tied. He also said the BMS is already thinking of hosting a 'duplicate' event. "We need Batswana to understand that the Desert Race is a brand that belongs to SACCS, it's not a Botswana brand.

Sometimes we as people we need to face up with eventualities like this and ask ourselves where to from here, is it impossible to come up with Botswana brands? The answer is no, its not." "In December during a FIA Africa General Assembly, the Vice President of Africa pledged support to help Botswana develop a Cross Country event and eventually have it on the FIA World Championship. This could be huge for Botswana and the good thing is it will be our event and we will own it," Modibedi said. The Toyota Desert Race will be held in Upington from June 24-26.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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