Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tour operators confirm boycott of Botswana tourism

The international boycott of Botswana’s tourism industry kicked off this week with one of the Spanish tour travel agency confirming to Sunday Standard that it has cancelled trips of tourists who were planning to visit the country. The campaign to boycott the country’s tourism industry was recently launched by London based human rights organisation Survival International which accuses the Botswana Government of persecuting Basarwa tribesmen. Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, Chairman and Managing Director of Horizonte Paralelo (a Spanish travel agency) Pablo Rodr├¡guez Martinez confirmed that “It┬┤s true, we have joined the Botswana government tourist boycott promoted by Survival International. It seems a proportionate measure to respond to the victimization of Basarwa people.” “We suffered a lot to learn of the so degrading treatment of the population of the Kalahari Nature Reserve by the government (even with judicial rulings in their favor),” said Martinez. He paid tribute to the Survival International’s office in Spain which informed their agency “about the situation of Basarwa and the relocation proposed by the government, without taking into account the requests of people and their ancient culture (Basarwa living in the Kalahari Desert from 20,000 years, and that they ‘are the sons and daughters of the first humans on the planet’.”

“We are totally against harassment. Since 1986, Botswana authorities have been persecuting Basarwa tribes; destruction of wells, prohibition of hunting and gathering, decimating water reserves… for the sole purpose of pressurizing people to displace them from areas rich in diamond deposits,” he said. Martinez said they believe that no government in the world has the right to expel and evict inhabitants from their lands; their roots with a purely economic objective. In the best case, our brothers (Basarwa), the only solution they receive is the obligation to live in camps, where alcoholism, depression and AIDS, destroys them, losing their culture, said Martinez. “Horizonte Paralelo, is an travel agency that tries to promote, in their proposed trip, responsible tourism with the environment both as to culture and human beings,” he said. Martinez added that “…we were preparing trips to Botswana, but have been canceled until the government reconsider its shameful conduct and takes action towards a Culture of Peace,” he said.

While another tour travel agency had not responded to the Sunday Standard enquiries by press time, it is also quoted as saying that, ‘We have cancelled our pending [tour] requests for Botswana and informed the local tour operators about this boycott. We will suspend all tours and block tour requests to Botswana until the government in Botswana has improved the situation.” Asked if the Government recently wrote letters to international tour operators in an effort to counter Survival International’s campaign, government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay said, “We gave a letter to HATAB and Botswana Tourism, we have not directly written to any companies directly, but HATAB and BTO were free to make use of the letter.”

The government is not taking the campaign lying down as it is concerned that the boycott is likely to hit the country’s economy where it hurts. In the letter dated, 4th October and signed by Ramsay himself, the government expressed concern at Survival International’s campaign stating that the nation is expected to be a direct victim of tourist boycott. In a statement, Survival International said the government also imposed a hunting ban on the Basarwa which the Court once again found to be ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ but which the Government has enforced to this day.

“Once again, Basarwa were forced to take the government to court to demand their fundamental right to sink boreholes on their land, in the Kalahari Desert,” says Survival International. According to Survival International, government’s treatment of the Basarwa had been “inhumane and degrading”, in breach once again of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Survival says courts rarely deliver judgements of this severity particularly against a government, which now claims to be one of “the most peaceful, tolerant and law abiding in the world.” But the government has yet to apologize for its conduct, and has done nothing to aid the Basarwa in reinstalling their water borehole.

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