“I don’t know why we cannot do well at archery,” the Tlokweng MP, Kenneth Segokgo wondered out loud in his response to the 2018/1 budget speech. “That is where we use a kind of bow and arrow because definitely our forefathers used those before.”
The MP may have flubbed his history because his Batlokwa forefathers would likelier have used long-handle spears to hunt wild animals. However, he was making a more fundamental point that would be picked up by the Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko.
“Could the reasons why be, firstly, we do not take the sport seriously and secondly, we have very little prospect of doing well at all in the sport because we have marginalized the pros to whom the sport of archery occurs almost naturally, being the Basarwa,” said Boko using the other name for Bushmen which Khwedom Council, their umbrella indigenous rights group, has in the past bristled at. “If we placed them front and centre in our society, we would be able to harness from them, skills that have been developed and owned over generations. Could that be one of the reasons?”
Maybe, but it could also be that sport in Botswana has historically not been managed on the basis of simple common sense. It is likely that the late Leonard Matenge, who came to be better known as a footballer than a sprinter, could have brought Botswana its first Olympic medal in 1992. A year before, Matenge had beaten Namibian sprinter, Frankie Fredericks, at a regional competition and was Olympics-bound until the very final moments when, without explanation, he was dropped from the national team. Fredericks went on to participate in the Barcelona Olympics, winning a silver medal, the first Olympic Games medal for his country. Ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, a high-performing Botswana swimmer was pulled out of training in Australia. The action was reportedly taken at the instigation and insistence of a Botswana Swimming Sports Association committee member who felt that her own daughter should have been the one representing Botswana at the Olympics.
The chaos that has historically defined sport management was the reason why veteran Radio Botswana announcer, Batho Molema, resigned from government after 19 years of service. When a senior government officer wanted to promote him to Director of Sports and Culture and Molema remembers responding: “I don’t want to be mixed up with anything related to sports.”
There is a lack of imagination around the value of cultural heritage and the assertion by the two opposition MPs’ point can be developed to illustrate that point.
The expulsion of the Bushmen from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve has permanently torn them apart from cultural heritage that has sustained them for millennia and, in the case of tracking, would be useful to the arms of force like the army, police and prison service. Over a decade ago at a Med Rescue event held at Phakalane, Dr. Kiran Bhagat shared a troubling detail from medical research with the audience: table salt is not good for black people, especially those in Southern Africa.
In indigenous culture, there is a special type of individuals who have spiritually blessed hands. The meat from animals slaughtered by these individuals tastes so wholesome that it really doesn’t need to be seasoned with salt. When these individuals plant a field in corn by broadcast seeding, the shoots that sprout thereafter will be so perfectly lined up and evenly spaced that the unwitting would think that a row planter was used. If these magic hands were used in abattoirs, people with diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases wouldn’t have to worry about seasoning their meat with salt.