The Botswana Railways (BR) is to revel in multiple opportunities from the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) proposal to provide special rail transport for leisure travelers and fans for the annual “Mmantshwabisi” Desert Race Event, scheduled for Selebi Phikwe between 21 and 23 June.
The BR passenger wagons will take off from Lobatse on Friday evening at half past five (1730 hours) and reach Selebi Phikwe the following day at twenty five minutes before four (0335 hours) in the morning. They will however do their usual stop over picking other travelers on the way.
The proposal, which BR say they have approved is for a collaboration to enable as massive an attendance and participation as would almost equal all the previous ones held in the southern region despite distance. Fans have always religiously flurried from all angles through own and available public road transport to relish in the adventure.
“But first and foremost the idea is that as a member organization of the Ministry of Transport and Communication (MTC) we have a responsibility to provide reliable medium of transport and to facilitate safe travel from points of departure to destination,” qualified Squander Baitshepi, BR Corporate Communications manager.
On account of the popularity of the event, and since there will be a hive of activity from all over the country special consideration has been given to the fact that the event will weigh heavily on traffic thus presenting increased risk to the general wider public and motorists heading for Selebi Phikwe.
The transportation by rail will therefore ensure relief of A1 road traffic congestion, reduce incidence of accidents and minimize fatigue as it would offer safe and comfortable alternative mode for vehicle owners.
Baitshepi pointed out that as such, safety was paramount among issues that factored in the BTO’s proposal for a collaborative arrangement with BR and other stakeholders partaking in organization of the event.
Another reason that prompted the BR Management to give a nod to the idea was consideration that the trip was a test and presented an opportunity for the corporation to position itself for a future in tourism trade. This is especially true in light of envisaged building of a railway line from Mosetse to Kazungula joining into Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Baitshepi further explained: “There might probably be another similar trip to the Makgadikgadi Epic in due course where again safe travel would make leisure travel and adventure worth pursuing for many who have always only been needing the appropriate mode to access the fun at this equally exciting event.”
In the context of the now deserted Selebi Phikwe Mine town, Batshepi painted a picture of renewed hope that the event is intended to effect in the community in that area. He said the collaboration represents BR’s little way of lending support to initiatives by authorities to revive the township.
Mention was made of the fact that, business case for the Desert Race was in fact largely about giving a boost to economic resuscitation of Selebi Phikwe. Negotiations with Taxi Associations are said to be ongoing through BTO to remediate activity at connection stations to be commensurate with planned times for the Race schedules.
To confirm this, Samuel Lephalo, Acting Public Relations Manager (APRM) at BTO, hinted, that by virtue of the large numbers of people involved from across all the country’s compass directions ranging in many thousands, the collaboration with BR is aimed to ease traffic movement and promote the safety message, “Don’t spoil it”.
Furthermore, “A partnership with the Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC), Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) and more importantly Southern Africa Cross Country Series (SACS) has been conceived specifically to optimize the benefits accruing from such an event by the resident communities,” posited BTO spokesperson.
He highlighted that the Desert Race remains according to BTO’s annual plenary, the biggest event in Botswana which in the past has featured more than thirty thousand in audience from across the entire country alone.
“It has therefore become a brand, an important one especially in the tourism sector that must be protected at all cost. It should not be associated with fatalities, bad conduct or mischief, thus, “Don’t spoil it” so that it maintains the glow and appeal it has so far carried and kept snowballing its attendance,”
The SACS are the principal organizers of the event which is otherwise also referred to as the Toyota Kalahari Desert Race.
In order to avoid last minute rush, BR Customer Relationship Manager, responsible for Passenger Services, Kebabonye Morewagae, indicated that ticket bookings have started in earnest.
“We would like to motivate clients to avoid last minute rush for an enjoyable and relaxed ride. But also given the limited number of special coaches such as the 26 Bed Sleeper, double carriage 88 Seater Executive or Business Class and as well the Standard Class which brings the entire thing to 435, the demand is sure very high to disappoint,” contended Morewagae.
So it will be a fun train, leisure, disco and tourism packed in a host of wagons as food, beverages; alcoholic and non alcoholic with provided throughout the trip, according to Morewagae.