Sunday, October 25, 2020

South Africa is best cultural-tourism model for Botswana

If plane tickets to the usual benchmarking destinations (Europe, the United States and Australia) have already been bought and hotel reservations made, the intending jet-setters will certainly find this (free) information very useful.“South Africa has a relatively well-developed cultural tourism product,” says Professor Joseph Mbaiwa of the University of Botswana in response to the question of which SADC country offers the best cultural tourism model for Botswana to emulate.

“When you visit Soweto now, you will be shown the Mandela House, the little boy Hector Peterson at some square. When you also visit Cape Town, you will be told there is Robben Island and near Johannesburg there the Cradle of Humankind.”He adds that South Africa also has several cultural villages which showcase the country’s rich traditions, languages and crafts.“We can learn from them as Botswana,” says Mbaiwa, a professor of tourism studies who is the Director of the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute in Maun.

His mention of the Hector Peterson monument is interesting in what should be a resonant dimension for Botswana and Batswana. The Botswana government and Batswana played no small role in the liberation of black South Africans. In 1974, cadres of the Umkhonto weSizwe – or MK, the armed wing of the liberation-struggle era African National Congress, collaborated with a Mochudi woman, Meisie Pilane, to establish and operate a safe/transit house in Extension, Gaborone. The house fronted as a shebeen, which was called “Mannenberg.” The shebeen’s first stock, which was bought by MK cadres, comprised of two cases each of Prinz Brau and Prinz Lager beer, a 750 ml bottle of Limousine brandy and a one-litre bottle of ginger ale.

The only other purchase was Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mannenberg LP which was played round the clock and was the reason the shebeen acquired its name.Among those who stopped by this shebeen were future South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and his now deceased brother, Jama, a lawyer who successfully defended Pilane during a court case that followed a July 14, 1978 raid on the shebeen by two officers from the Central Police Station. One of those officers was Tymon Katholo, the future first citizen head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime. His Station Commander was Superintendent Lesedi Mothibamele, who would later join politics, becoming Kgalagadi MP and cabinet minister.Another important figure was Mbuyisa Makhubo, the schoolboy who is carrying the body of Hector Pieterson in the iconic picture of the June 16, 1976 uprising. In a 2012 interview, Pilane told Sunday Standard that when Makhubo stopped by Mannenberg courtesy of an MK cadre, she noticed that his face looked familiar.

She soon realised that this was the same boy whose picture had been plastered on the front pages of newspapers carrying the slain Hector Pieterson and that he was still wearing the same pair of Wrangler jeans in the picture“He was jumpy, restless and his eyes were all over the place. He would spent the night at Mannenberg and in the morning would be taken away to sleep at a safe house somewhere in town. He was here for more than a week, stayed in Mochudi for some time, then disappeared for good,” recalled Pilane, an excellent storyteller whose own liberation-era story is much more interesting than Mannenberg’s.

People who are interested in the Hector Pieterson monument, notably black South Africans, would also certainly be interested in the Mannenberg story and site. There are many more sites of great touristic interest but for now, their economic potential is not being exploited.

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