Saturday, September 23, 2023

Recent fires at the 1000 desert race are a sign of poor governance and absence of structures

Good governance like good systems is always effective during times of a crisis.

Good governance provides cover and gives reassurance.

What could easily become a tragedy in times of crisis becomes manageable when there are good systems in place.

Yet recently in Jwaneng, because there were basically no systems in place when  a crisis struck, it became a race to the bottom.

The 1000 kilometer Desert race is primarily a responsibility of Botswana Tourism Organisation.

BTO has done incredibly well to bring the race back after a long spell.

In fact the race almost did not come back.

There was a season when it was moved to Selibe Phikwe.

But the terrain was found not to  be conducive.

Then it was moved to Uppington in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

As Batswana we must consider ourselves privileged being allowed to host this international event.

We must consider ourselves possibly lucky that this magnificent event has shown enough confidence for Botswana over the years.

We must internalize the fact that the event comes with responsibilities and obligations.

Yet over the years, especially this year totally new and unprecedented behavior was all over.

There was excessive alcohol consumption.

The crowd was rude and unruly.

People who came there did not have anything to do with enjoying the race.

We need to find a way to protect not just lives, especially of drivers but also the dignity of the country.

Many of the people who thronged the race popularly known as Mantshwabisi brought the name of the country into disrepute.

The behaviour was truly disgusting if not outright criminal.

People from outside were genuinely shocked at the level of drunkenness and lawlessness.

Coming from the hosts, that is truly disappointing.

Visitors would have been rattled.

Tourism in general will take a hit. And the general reputation of the country might take a knock.

There was widespread lack of discipline.

The importance of the 1000km Desert Race cannot be emphasized – especially for the country but also for local communities.

But as it is, Botswana Tourism Organisation has been let down by Botswana government.

BTO has no substantive Chief Executive officer.

It has not had one for a very long time.

There is now a board in place. But it was appointed after a very long time.

That Board cannot function when it is not capacitated.

For a long time BTO was used as a money pot by political leadership.

It is clear that like the previous administration of Ian Khama the current government has ill designs possibly of corruption at BTO.

The fires at the desert could have been handled better if BTO had in place substantive senior leadership that was able to plan and get systems into place.

For reasons that are yet to be clear, Botswana Government is not yet clear on what it wants to do with SPEDU, BERA, BTO and to a lesser extent BMC.

Because they have no leadership, these prarastatals lack direction. And have been without direction for a very long time now.

If there was leadership at BTO,  policies like that of managing risk could very easily have been put in place and stress tested to see they worked.

Reports indicate that close to fifty cars burned to ashes.

Thankfully there was no loss of life.

What is clear is that a lot of factors conspired to bring about disaster.

What could go wrong really went wrong.

The situation is worse at several other organisations like PEEPA, the privatization agency.

It is not clear why government has chosen to maintain these parastatals when they only exist in name – with no mandate, no Board and no executive management.

We really can do better as a country.


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