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The confounding chronicles of Khawa

For the past five years, Khawa, a seemingly unpopular name that refers to a small rural settlement situated between the sand dunes of Kgalagadi South, quickly rose to prominence because of a yearly event which came to be known as the Annual Khawa Dune Challenge.

With time, this event, a brainchild of President Ian Khama, became the most celebrated event of its kind, attracting riders from across the region- with approximately 7,000 spectators gracing the 2016 edition, which was held this past weekend. Despite the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) pouring millions of pula to host this VIP treat to host senior citizens and captains of industry at Khawa, there remains a troubling discrepancy between the Khawa inhabitants still living in absolute poverty on one hand and the millions poured into the event only for organisers and participants to pack up and leave with all they had brought.

I was very delighted to finally have had an opportunity to attend the Annual Khawa Dune Challenge for the very first time – one of the biggest events on the Botswana Tourism calendar. Even though I had been informed that accommodation is a camping affair, I thought it was a choice. It was not. There are no permanent accommodation facilities in Khawa and the only available village bar, if we can call it that, leaves a lot to be desired. What rendered me speechless is the 60 km gravel road from Khuis village to Khawa; the road is so bad and uncomfortable that it can only accommodate off-road vehicles.

Two million pula is invested annually to host the event with the aim of diversifying tourism and stimulating the domestic tourism market. Given that, one would think an event like this could have developed Khawa village to become a better settlement with infrastructure and better facilities.

This, in turn, could have developed the people of Khawa who could be seen approaching every parked vehicle to beg for food and clothing. The fact that every year, the President and some of his ministers, along with captains of industry, go holidaying in Khawa for a weekend only to return the following year and face the same underdeveloped village clearly shows that they only have an interest to exploit the breath-taking dunes while the locals and their poverty are ignored.
It is the dunes, not the people they are interested in.

Khawa Village has secured a prominent place on the map and has gained recognition as one of the tourism attractions in Botswana. The Botswana Tourism Organisation CEO, Thabo Dithebe, said they developed a land use plan for the village and has assisted the village trust to secure a campsite plot for use in generating sustainable income for the community. However, this has been going on for the past five years and nothing concrete is coming into focus.

As a cultural tourism event, the Khawa Cultural festival is part of an effort to diversify the tourism product offered during the Dune Challenge in terms of providing entertainment and running exhibitions alongside the other activities. The cultural festival objectives are, among others, to provide full community participation through their music and dance, providing a platform for cultural exchange as well as providing commercial space for the Khawa community to sell their cultural goods, products and services i.e. artefacts, leather products, food etc.

It seems these people have not been engaged enough to exhibit and sell their products since only a handful participated. The majority of the residents occupied stalls to sell food which is only a one off thing.

Prior to the event, Khawa Village Chief, Kgosi Piet Manyoro, expressed concern on the number of men who come to his village and impregnate young girls leaving them with fatherless children. The government seems to have ignored his plea for help and many young girls still remain vulnerable in Khawa during this event. This, if left unattended, could also lead to the spread of HIV within an innocent community that has become a victim of the popularity of their sand dunes.

Climbing up the Khawa dunes to mingle with local teenagers and trying to speak with them in Setswana got us nowhere as they responded in their deep Sekgalagadi or Afrikaans – a clear demonstration that they don’t even attend school. This was later confirmed by one of the teachers.

The only music they are familiar with is Polka, which originates from their region. They failed to appreciate musical groups, such as Wizards of the Desert, who had been brought in by the BTO to entertain revellers during the event.

The only time they danced a bit was when the popular Motabaseyo of Mahempe fame made it to the stage. This shows that these people are left behind and cannot relate to anything outside their immediate community.

The socio-economic survey, that is carried out by BTO every year, suggests positive socio-economic gains on the livelihoods of the community of Khawa and surrounding places, before and after the event. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The only people you will find being interviewed in the study are the same people who come from Gaborone and throng Khawa for the dune challenge.

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200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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Miss Earth Botswana catwalks to save the environment

22nd September 2020

Miss Earth Botswana is an annual local environmental-themed beauty pageant competition promoting environmental awarenessconservation and social responsibility. The reigning Queen dedicated her year to promoting specific projects and often addressing issues concerning the environment.

The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.

Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.

Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)

Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.

“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”

For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”

“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.

Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.

“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.

When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.

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