Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ntsweng Heritage Site

Finally Bakwena are rising to their rightful place. The announcement regarding the construction of the Ntsweng Heritage Site is indeed a great leap in the restoration of the Kwena culture and heritage. Ntsweng refers to a historical site where King Sechele presided over his people in the days when he ruled his subjects. It is often referenced as Ga-Mmakgosi and that is translated as the place of the queen.This is the same place where Dr David Livingstone often attended the subjects of Sechele when they were sick. There was a school where elementary education was conducted and it is the same place where King Sechele learnt the first letter.

Equally so, there was a church run by the London Missionary Society, but in those days there was a very thin line between the church and the school.Ntsweng (place on the hill) is a protected historical site by the National Museum and Monuments. King Sechele was no ordinary mortal. That is evidenced by the way this place was planned and arranged. Upon the hill, there are still remains of human settlement and the queen’s house and a trading store still stand as evidence. It is clear that King Sechele, being the military man that he was, put into serious consideration all security aspects when making a choice of site for his capital. The place is tucked away in a crescent of hills and the elevation of the place would make it difficult for any raiding party. Getting to Ntsweng as a raiding party, there would be few options of accessing the place.

This was a very well-fortified place even by modern standards. King Sechele had a vantage point from which his army could repel their enemies.This is the same spot where Dithubaruba Cultural Festival is held every year. There is nothing as edifying as seeing the resurrection of the glory of the Kwena Kingdom. By the way, I am not one of King Sechele’s tribesmen but I find him to be an interesting character in the history of this nation. I am not blowing his trumpet because of any tribal allegiance. But truth be told, he was a great man and greater than those referred to by the Westerner as “The Great”. The history of Bakwena actually revolves around this colossal figure.The construction of the new Sechele Museum now to be housed within the Ntsweng Heritage Site is a welcome development. Bakwena have now taken the right steps to save the legacy of their great king who ruled a great tribe. This project will not only benefit the tribe but it will benefit the entire nation. This will serve as an educational centre for the tribe and this will help to perpetuate the history of the tribe.The project will equally bring along the much needed jobs. The designers of the project have foresight as the development is going to be Kweneng central point of tourism.

Molepolole is currently the biggest village in the country and by far it is the biggest in Africa. It is difficult for people who come from countries like Malawi and Zambia to comprehend why Molepolole is still referred to as a village. By all accounts, this village could be classified as a large town in many parts of the world.The Ntsweng Heritage Site is a project that will include the following facilities; Sechele 1 Museum, camp site, restaurant, amphitheatre and an events garden. This will bring a hive of activities into the village and the project manager should start thinking of bringing along an accommodation facility such as a hotel. This is where the tourists will lodge.Molepolole has a variety of advantages when it comes to local or domestic tourism and Ntsweng Heritage Site will certainly become an opening for such opportunities.

It is time that Botswana nationals look within for attracting tourists. The Corona virus pandemic has taught us a lesson that we cannot always rely on foreigners for tourism. They have all dried up because of the current international travel ban.China is one country that has a thriving tourism industry. Whatever they create for that purpose, they don’t do it hoping for a group of Germans or Italians to arrive at their shores as tourists. They depend so much on their local population. They consume their own products when it comes to this industry. Go to their top tourist attraction, the Great Wall and see that the Chinese there represent well over 90% of the regular visitors.The government must equally bring along incentives for local tourism. These must come in the form of tax breaks and subsidies for facilities that host local tourists. For decades now, the national treasury has lost hundreds of billions in the tourism industry due to the fact that the industry is dependent on foreign tourists. They purchase their packages from abroad and pay all the money through the agents in Europe and North America.

In this way, the government has very little leverage to claim in terms of tax because the money is stashed in foreign accounts. It is one of the areas where we need reforms on and this will help add value to the industry.The citizens of this country will also have to have that change of mind set in the way they regard tourism. For an average Motswana, going on holiday means travelling to South Africa and spending time at the beach in Durban, or travelling to Zimbabwe to view the Victoria Falls. We need a paradigm shift in this field.Imagine that most of us have only been able to see our tourist attractions because we went there on trip sanctioned by the employer. Otherwise the rest of the family is denied the opportunity to see the beauty of this country. For others, it was that school trip that helped in travelling to Kasane some twenty three years ago. The annual events that happen in this country such as the Desert Race and Dithubaruba have provided evidence that we have capacity as a country to pull our own crowds.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.