There is only public justification that President Ian Khama has offered for his sole custodianship of the keys to one section of the Gcwihaba Caves: that there is a monstrously huge snake inside that interacts well only with people who have an excellent disposition for interspecies relations.
“There is a big snake there, you need to be accompanied by army officers to go inside and there are high chances of coming out from there lifeless. When we go inside we use army tactics like crawling and so forth, and when you meet the snake you should know what to do,” a local paper quoted the president as saying last year.
If nothing else, this revelation-warning guarantees that even the most adventurous of the ESP nouveau riche will think thrice about partaking in the positively bourgeois pastime of caving. Hopefully this newly rich don’t opt for gallivanting on Durban beaches because that comes with the risk of them littering and thus provoking the Facebook wrath of white Democratic Alliance members who are still pining for the good old days of lily-white beaches. Then again, they probably shouldn’t have to steer clear of the caves because a team of European consultants have substantially revised down the size of that snake.
Up commission of the European Union-headquartered Centre for the Development of Enterprise, a three-member consultant team studied the value chain of Botswana’s tourism, which task entailed cataloguing prime tourist assets in the country. One such is the Gcwihaba Caves, an off-the-grid asset in the north of the country.
“These caves have formed a labyrinth of underground caverns and passageways (some of which are up to 10m high) and include stalagmites and stalactites that have developed into columns to support the cave ceiling. These caves are currently a national museum site and are also a proposed world heritage site. They have a variety of wildlife, including bats and small reptiles and mammals,” reads the report the consultants subsequently produced.
Small reptiles? Either this is a magical snake that keeps changing its size depending on the nationality of the intruder who happens by or one account about its size is patently false. The cost-benefit analysis of the consultants’ account provides na├»ve hope for the possibility of the custodianship of the caves’ key being shared as well as the risk of feeling the full force of serpentine ferocity. Khama’s account both elevates standards of executive leadership to ability to handle moody, cave-dwelling snakes and puts pressure on the entire cast of opposition leadership to acquire snake-handling experience before October 2019. On a limited upside, it creates an opening for former army generals in the opposition to realistically vie for leadership positions within the Botswana Movement for Democracy. That neither party has provided photographic evidence via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Vine, Pinterest, Tumblr, Periscope, Snapchat, Google+ and other social media platforms about its encounter with this huge/small reptile in the caves (or half-serpentarium as the president insists) has not been helpful in solving this mystery.
On a sombre note, Khama’s custodianship of Gcwihaba has been a source of enormous distress among certain sections of the population. These citizens feel that the concentration of industrial quantities of personal-presidential energy on the protection of a particular, otherwise state-superintended national asset represents executive overreach and whatever its merit – if any at all, personifies the proverbial breaking of a butterfly upon a wheel.