Monday, May 16, 2022

Khawa Dune Challenge 2022 an organizational disaster

Khawa Village: The just ended Khawa Dune Challenge 2022 may have exposed the organizational decay inside Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) and by extension the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).

For those tourists who set out to create their own holiday activities away from the hullabaloo at the center of Khawa settlement, everything may have seemed in order.

But those at the mercy of the two organisations held front row tickets to a complete shitshow. Safe for the handful sand dune activities for which credit should go to the Botswana Motor Sport (BMS), there was hardly anything good to write home about.

The motor association did their best in spite of the peanuts they get for their participation. For a motorbike racing first place cash prize of a measly P5000, you don’t need official confirmation to realise the little support BMS gets from the government. That is however another topic for another day.

Today we shall talk about a 150 capacity cafeteria servicing 300 people, or 200+ people sharing 16 ablution facilities in the wake of the deadly Covid-19. When Khawa village Chief Piet Manyoro warned tourists against impregnating local girls, he must not have been aware the visitors were leaving behind more than just fatherless children.

All the squatting that took place behind the desert shrubs and tents as a result of inadequate facilities should have raised concerns.

The service providers however should never take the blame. They did not deserve the constant verbal abuse from the tourists who were fed up the inadequacy of services. The insults were misdirected.

The poor service was, in fact, orchestrated 734 kilometers away at Fairgrounds Office Park (BTO) and government enclave (MET). Service providers had hardly 48 hours to prepare for the event thanks to late requests for quotations (RFQs) and late approvals.

Most hardly had time to read the fine print in their contracts. Some had not even signed their contracts by the time they set up in Khawa on the eve of the opening day. “I only received confirmation on Wednesday (April 27, 2022) and had to mobilize resources before the end of Thursday (next day),” one service provider told Sunday Standard.

While it has become clichéd to compare the two administrations, you did not have to be a new timer to figure out the previous events may have been better organized under the past government.

And President Mokgweetsi Masisi has used every opportunity to remind us of the rivalry between himself and his predecessor. His latest stunt, however, left the President with an egg on the face. 

An attempt to discredit former president Ian Khama over the origins of Khawa Dune Challenge backfired. Social media enthusiasts were quick to replay Masisi’s 2019 video clip in which he credited his predecessor for being instrumental in bringing the event to life.

This unwillingness to acknowledge the role played by Khama in the birth of Khawa Dune Challenge may have compromised preparations for the 2022 event. It may explain why MET may have been sluggish in availing funds for the event. The organizational decay at BTO cannot go unnoticed either. The parastatal may have shifted its focus from carrying out their mandate to fighting turf wars with the parent Ministry, leading to flawed decision making that has now been apparent in the preparations for Khawa.

Under Khama there was no question who had the upper hand and backing of Office of the President. BTO had everything at their disposal, with Ministry officials often feeling sidelined. 

The powers now seem to have shifted. The vacant CEO position has only made matters worse. The parastatal has been without a substantive leader since the departure of Myra Sekgororoane 14 months ago. 

This is despite a couple of recommendations by the Board of Directors which decisions were vetoed by OP. Names like that of the late FNB Chief Economist Moatlhodi Sebabole were rejected by OP.

Other qualified candidates (known to this publication) for the BTO top job have been turned down by OP. 

The promotion system, especially at high levels, seems to be controlled by individuals within the OP with partisan politics being the determinant factor. It remains to be seen how long BTO will remain without a substantive CEO.

It will be too simplistic to assume that the problems at Khawa 2022 are a result of a single, isolated decision. Following the recent announcement of a major restructuring of state owned enterprises it is not clear to what extent BTO will be affected by the planned merger.

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