Wednesday, August 10, 2022

BTO mum on plans to fight back against SI

The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) is keeping mum about possible plans to counter Survival international, a British pressure group that has launched an international campaign against Botswana tourism. Sunday Standard had sought to know from BTO whether it would fight back against SI; if so, what form would its own campaign take; when it would take off; and, whether the Organisation would handle the campaign itself or engage the services of an international public relations firm. The answer to all those questions was “BTO is not currently in a position to share [information about] any possible campaign on the issue.” While BTO is keeping its plans, if any, under wraps, SI is charging full speed ahead with its own campaign and has also publicised its programme of action. In the current online campaign, it is asking netizens to write a letter to the Botswana government, to donate to the “Bushman campaign”, to write “to your MP or MEP (UK) or senators and members of Congress (US)” and to “your local Botswana high commission or embassy.” It says it will ask its more than 100 000 supporters to “join the boycott and write to Botswana’s Minister of Tourism telling him ‘I’m not coming to Botswana’ until the harassment of the Bushmen stops.” As described on its website, SI’s M.O. is to “place the issue repeatedly in the widest possible media (newspapers/TV/radio/web etc.) exposing the violations, and asking people to voice their support.”

It further states that most of its campaigns take decades. Already the London-based NGO has delivered a decisive one-two-punch that threw the government against the ropes. SI is asking the international community to “boycott Botswana over its treatment of Bushmen.” In response, the government spokesman, Dr. Jeff Ramsay wrote a letter directed at the same audience in which he made reference to an SI communication that “calls for a blanket boycott of our tourist industry on the basis of the alleged persecution of a part of our population whom they label as “Bushmen.” SI shot back by pointing out that the Botswana government is itself using that same word. It screen-munched a picture on the BTO website captioned “Welcome to Botswana’s Official Tourism website… Bushmen Kgalagadi Central” as evidence. The picture was promptly and quietly taken down. Two international travel companies, Travelpickr and Horizonte Paralelo, have announced that they are suspending their tours to Botswana. The latter, which is based in Spain, has released a statement that reads:

“We have joined Survival’s boycott of tourism to Botswana. We think it’s the appropriate measure in the face of the victimisation of Bushmen. We are deeply troubled to read Survival’s letter and learn about the degrading treatment of the Bushmen at the hands of the government.”

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