Thursday, October 29, 2020

Ministry denies Khama’s accusations over Polka festival

The Ministry of Youth and Culture has dismissed accusations by former President Ian Khama that it has withdrawn sponsorship for the annual Kgalagadi Polka Festival.

Permanent Secretary Kago Ramokate denied the allegations, saying the government will continue supporting the cultural festival, held in Tsabong. Ramokate’s response followed Khama’s complaint that the government was pulling the plug on the polka festival, which is one of his flagship activities.  In an interview with Sunday Standard last week Khama said he had been reliably informed by his contacts in the area that they had been notified of the sponsorship withdrawal.

“I have also been reliably informed that the organisers have been ordered not to invite me and that if they do, the President (Mokgweetsi Masisi) would not attend the festival.” He accuses the government of trying to erase his legacy at the expense of communities who he says benefit from such projects.

Last week social media pages sympathetic to the former President ran untested allegations claiming President Mokgweetsi Masisi was due to attend the polka festival but decided to cancel at the last minute when he learnt about Khama’s anticipated presence at the event.

“The government had tried hard without success to ensure the former President was not invited to the event.  In their sustained bid to continue to sabotage all the projects which were spearheaded by the former president, it is alleged that the current administration has taken a position to destroy anything associated with Khama, be it events, projects or wildlife,” the stories read. The articles, whose veracity could not be independently verified, claimed participants at this year’s polka festival said they were told that the ministry had decided to stop supporting the project because of its association with the former President. Khama echoed the same in an interview with this publication at his official Gaborone office. “When I started these cultural events and constituency football the aim was to encourage talent. And for these projects to continue they need government support but instead of granting them assistance they rather choose to shut them down,” he said.

Khama also accused the government of frustrating efforts to develop Gcwihaba caves which he said should have been developed for tourist attraction purposes.  He said the government has already spent resources in developing the caves and discovering more caverns within the site but such efforts have come to nothing because the project has been abandoned

He said there were plans to set up a campsite as well as an airstrip for easier access. “I was even willing to offer my services.”

In 2017 then President Khama hosted his cabinet at the caves where then Vice President Masisi was quoted by the media as having acknowledged the significance of the caves in the humans’ evolutionary history.

“The VP then declared that government will allow Khama access to Gcwihaba so that he can oversee the caves’ exploration and its development as a tourism site,” the reports said. Members of the public have only been allowed controlled access into the caves. Khama said he has, during his presidency, engaged various experts on the exploration project who discovered new caves and dug corridors to connect the caverns. Gcwihaba caves are some of the wildest and most remote destinations in Botswana. They are an underground maze of caverns and pits, linked passages, stalagmite and stalactite formations, and flowstones that appear like waterfalls of rock.

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