A war of words has broken out between the Botswana Guides Association (BOGA) and Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) over new rules and regulations that the latter has set up to govern operations of BOGA. The association’s chairperson Kenson Kgaga this week expressed worry about souring relations between the association and BQA.
“It appears BQA is delaying to address our grievances. Now it’s getting worse because we have recently been made aware of a number of changes in the rules that are meant to govern us,” he said.
He added that some of the regulations are threatening to undermine the already ailing mobile safari industry. Kgaga said it is not right for BQA to require tour guides to submit their qualifications when they (BQA) know that the guides have had no formal training. He added that BQA has warned them that failure to submit their qualifications will result in their operations being disrupted.
“All along we have been using our knowledge of the bush to run the industry and everything has been smooth sailing. Now they are putting in place new laws that will disqualify us,” he said.
He revealed that the BQA recently notified them that all walking guides must state the number of hours they walked and always carry weapons with them in case they meet dangerous animals along the way. The regulations also require the guides to keep a record of all encounters with dangerous animals and also detail how they reacted to such encounters. The mokoro guides are expected to know how to swim and conduct excursions in areas where there are potentially dangerous animals, as well as detail records of such encounters.
“BQA also made many other changes, all of which took us by surprise. They gave us up to the end of August 2014 to have complied. We are very much aggrieved by the many changes brought before us. While we understand the government’s position in revising their guiding principles, we also feel we should have been involved in decision making as we are the ones on the ground and are well versed with the challenges we meet on a daily basis,” he said.
Kgaga added that BOGA has not received any response from the parliamentary portfolio committee on natural resources after presenting their grievances to the committee a while ago. He also revealed that Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has ignored their invitation for him to attend their annual general meeting.
“We were told at the eleventh hour that he couldn’t make it and that his Permanent Secretary will attend, but that also never materialized. This really shows that our government undermines us,” he said.
He also accused Khama of not honoring his promise to ensure that the amendment of various policies does not clash with their operations. Meanwhile Director of Standards at BQA, Mathaka Mmapatsi dismissed the accusations leveled by BOGA as unsubstantiated hearsay. He however admitted that he had received complaints from a number of mobile operators who wanted clarity on what lies ahead. He also said BQA has simply made slight changes here and there and always made presentations to BOGA.
“The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) came with a new system that complied with BQA requirements. The qualification standards were developed in such a way that they would assist mobile safari operators to have endorsable licenses,” he said.
Some of the requirements are that the applicants should show cause why they feel they are competent enough in a particular field and provide evidence of such to be assessed by BQA. Mmapatsi said the whole procedure should not be taken by candidates or their employers as a re-assessment process, but rather as a quality assurance tool. He also warned that some candidates may be required to carry out actual performances as a way of re-assuring the assessors that they are competent.
“The assessment will also be carried out though an alignment assessment panel so that there is transparency,” said Mmapatsi.
He also revealed that BQA has always requested BOGA to invite them to their meetings so they could iron out their differences and harmonize relations.