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Land Rover provides traction for Born Free projects


Cape-based freelance motoring journalist, RICHARD WILEY, recently visited Kenya and the Meru National Park, to find out first-hand, exactly what drives the conservation partnership between the Born Free Foundation and Land Rover. Here’s his story about a venture which he described as “truly inspirational.”


There’s an awful lot more to being a good car manufacturer than simply designing and assembling cars and meeting emissions and safety standards. In reality, the car is the end product of a multitude of endeavours, not least of which is that essential component commonly described as “corporate social responsibility.”


Putting something back into the community in which a company thrives is the cornerstone of this philosophy and in my experience, none does it better than UK-based Land Rover.


This company of course operates way beyond the confines of local communities because its footprint is found in every corner of the globe and that is why Land Rover has been an active supporter of far-reaching ventures such as the Red Cross and the Born Free Foundation with which it formed a Conservation Partnership as far back as 2002.


Along with a select few journalists from the UK, USA, South Africa and Kenya, I recently received an invitation from Land Rover to experience first-hand how the company dovetails with the Born Free Foundation in the protection of wildlife in Kenya and more specifically, in the Meru National Park some 300 km north east of Nairobi.


The Born Free Foundation was created in 1984 by actors and wildlife campaigners Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna who starred in the film Born Free which was based on the life of Elsa the lioness who was cared for as an orphan by George and Joy Adamson and subsequently released into the wild.


Virginia continues her close involvement with the Foundation in the role of Trustee while her son Will has taken over the reins as an active and deeply involved President leading the charitable Foundation’s drive to protect wildlife species through the preservation of the increasingly pressurised environment in which they exist.


In simple terms, the pressure is sourced in expanding human populations and their need for land and by ruthless poaching, a situation which has received close attention from the Born Free Foundation in its quest to enlighten societies as to how humans and wild animals can successfully co-exist.


Indeed, this very aspect has been addressed in the southern game parks of Kenya where the Foundation, in collaboration with Land Rover, has been instrumental in establishing secure bomas to protect the livestock belonging to the local population from the attentions of errant lions.


The Land Rover involvement is not something recent though as the connection goes right back to the 1950s when George Adamson roamed the wilds of Kenya in various Land Rovers used to assist his work in preserving and protecting the wild lion population.


As a follow-up to the aforementioned 2002 partnership, Land Rover signed a new contract with Born Free in November 2013, extending its partnership into the provision of vehicles to assist field workers in reaching far-flung areas not just in Kenya but in  Southern Asia and in South Africa. Logistical support has also been stepped-up as we were to find out in our extraordinary journey through the Meru Conservation Area and surrounding lands.


After a 50-minute journey by air from Wilson Airfield on the outskirts of ever-expanding Nairobi, we landed at a hot and dusty airstrip in Meru to be greeted by members of the Land Rover Experience team based in Johannesburg and by senior personnel from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).


Also on hand were no fewer than seven Land Rovers, all bedecked in the colours of the Born Free Foundation. Two of these were black Defender 110 models donated by Land Rover and five were 2014 Discovery 3.0SD V6 models, painted in sparkling white and, amazingly, fitted with Gauteng number plates.


Land Rover sub-Sahara Africa had certainly gone beyond the call of duty in providing us with such plush and effective transport to roam the African wilds but this act alone attests to the importance Land Rover places on its joint conservation efforts with Born Free.


Our accommodation for two nights was at the simply stunning Elsas’s Kopje. This is an award-winning lodge discretely integrated into Mughwango Hill, playground of Elsa the lioness in the 50s and situated within metres of the Adamson’s original camp and just a kilometre or so from the spot where  parts from George Adamson’s  Series 2 Land Rover provide an emotional reminder of the enlightened conservation work undertaken so long ago.


Here we met the softly spoken yet deeply committed Virginia McKenna who along with her eldest son, Will, has done so much to perpetuate George Adamson’s legacy. The pair were to be our constant companions on our two day adventure which brought home to all of us how the Born Free Foundation and the Kenya Wildlife Service has reversed the negative effects of bandit and poaching activity which nearly brought the Meru wilderness to its knees.


A progressive re-stocking policy combined with the efforts of the KWS and the Born Free Foundation has ensured that visitors to the Park  are rewarded with regular sightings of game, big and small, albeit that the poaching threat is still far too prevalent as we were to witness in person.


Indeed, after a visit to Elsa’s grave which is situated right alongside the river and former campsite where she romped with her human carers and subsequently roamed as a rehabilitated wild lion more than 50 years ago, we visited the Meru base camp of the KWS.


Here, we learned a lot more about the threat to wildlife and to flora and fauna in the region and how Project Lion Rover has been implemented to assist in defeating the powers of evil.


When it became apparent that the KWS team was in need of equipment to help the staff carry out their duties, Land Rover responded by supplying tents, laptops, binoculars, cameras, cold weather clothing and hand-held GPS devices.


De-snaring is a critical element of the protection process and to demonstrate just how effective the Born Free field team has become, we were taken to an area within visual range of our lodge where “active” snares had been found.


In the company of armed KWS personnel who told us that angry buffalo rather than snarling lions were their biggest problem in the bush, we trekked through savannah grassland and widely dispersed trees to find the de-snaring team had located no fewer than five wire snares in a confined area. Worse still, one of these snares had ended the life of a small giraffe which had been caught by its neck and left to meet a grizzly end.


This intensive activity is on-going and is important not just for saving the lives of wild animals but for retaining what I would term the balance of nature. As antelope would appear to be the primary but not sole target of the snares, a further reduction in their population could cause lions to revert to attacking the livestock of the thousands of people who live in areas bordering the National Park.


Accordingly, the Born Free Foundation has implemented schemes to try and resolve potential human/animal conflict areas while taking steps to educate the thousands of school children resident in the bordering areas on matters relating to conservation and wildlife preservation.


No fewer than 13 running rivers fed from nearby mountains, are the lifeblood of the Meru Conservation area and these are under threat from habitat losses and from deliberate diversion of existing water courses. Of particular importance is the incredible 4139ha Ngaya Forest area which falls under the auspices of the Kenya Forest Service with whom the Born Free Foundation closely co-operates.


The safeguarding of the towering trees and dense vegetation which borders on habitated land that in turn borders on the Park, is absolutely crucial to the survival of that Park, and Born Free with the help of Land Rover, is in the vanguard of spreading the word and providing practical assistance in realising sustainability.


Reaching remote parts has always taxed man’s ingenuity and this applies in particular to traversing far-flung game parks. In our case, we were encouraged to sample the Born Free Land Rover Defenders as well as the more modern and altogether more luxurious Discovery models.


Boarding the Defender was something of a time warp as I spent many of my younger days at the wheel of a Series 2A Landie. The basics are unchanged which means ruggedness predominates. The steering is low-geared and rather vague, the turning circle is other-worldly and the clutch and gearshift are endowed with a firm, deliberate action.


But the point is that the Defender is totally at home in the outdoors, particularly as it is equipped with permanent 4WD with low ratio on tap and with a 2.2 diesel motor that provides 90% of its meaty 360Nm maximum torque output from just 2 200 rpm.


That means it’s entirely possible to meander along appalling surfaces with a high gear engaged just as it’s possible to tackle 45 degree ascents and crest deep ditches secure in the knowledge that 250mm of ground clearance will allow safe passage.


It was entirely appropriate to be traversing the self-same terrain that George and Joy Adamson did 50 years ago in a near-identical icon of the off-road motoring world, but I feel certain George and Elsa too, would delight in the comforts of the latest Discovery, albeit that the soft leather seat facings and a lion’s claws would not exactly be compatible!


With all the luxuries of a modern executive car and all the practicalities of 4WD and Terrain Response, the 7-seat Discovery is the ultimate all-rounder. Serene is the one word that encapsulates the ultra-smooth 8-speed auto box and the 3.0 TD V6 that transfers up to 520Nm to the wheels.


It’s hard to believe that something so smart can be so capable but when the mere push of a button provides massively increased ground clearance courtesy of air suspension and processors distribute torque according to specific conditions, even the uninitiated can make comfortable progress.


And on that subject, the latest sat nav system proved infallible, providing 100% accurate mapping and voice guidance even in the most remote parts of the Meru!


Amazing, but for me not quite as amazing as the simply outstanding conservation work being done by the Born Free Foundation with the comprehensive backing of Land Rover. Without commitments such as this, the truth is we would have no parks at all to drive through.
 

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WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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WeekendLife

Gospel concerts make a comeback

16th November 2021
Bishop Benjamin Dube

Hailed for being the prime gospel concert after the Covid-19 pandemic had put events to a halt, Golden Relic, in conjunction with Sweet Brands, recently unveiled the Arise and Worship Concert, Botswana. The show marks the return of worshippers and fans to enjoy music and worship together after what seemed like “cooler box” events were taking over the entertainment scene. 

The concert to be held on December 11th 2021, at the Molapo Showcase, has a packed lineup with the Headlining acts being Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela from South Africa and Botswana’s very own Obakeng Sengwaketse. More international acts from Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to grace the event. The show organizers have invested an effort in diversifying the lineup with live performances. 

The promoter of the Arise and Worship Concert, David “DVD” Abram revealed in an overview of the event that; “We have lost a lot of loved ones this year, and when that happens, one’s spirit goes down, and we need a light to ground us once more, to heal our souls. Therefore, the two main purposes of this event are to do the work of God and, secondly, to make sure that we nurture and develop talent in Botswana. With challenges that come up with events of such magnitude, the team and I have been committed to seeking guidance from God through having night prayers.” 

Abram added that as promoters, they usually have a bias towards already established artists, thus neglecting the upcoming ones and wanting to change that. “We approached the Melody Gospel TV Show since we aim at nurturing new talent and agreed on having one of the winners as a headliner for the event to allow them to share the stage with gospel giants so that they are exposed to the industry. This resulted in securing the Second Winner of the Melody Gospel TV show; Thabiso Mafoko as a local headlining act.”

The concert also aims at celebrating a Motswana. Multi-Award Winner; with the most recent title; BOMU Best Traditional Gospel under his belt, also best known for his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics, Obakeng Sengwaketse enthusiastically said, “I want to thank the organizers of the Arise and Worship concert, it means a lot to me after recently winning two awards that are currently the highlight of my career.

I regard this as a great revival because the Covid-19 pandemic has muffled events such as this. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with the great Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela and more artists from Nigeria and Ghana. Sengwaketsi urged Batswana to come and witness the greatness of the Lord as their lives will never be the same.”

Tickets are selling like fat cakes with VVIP tickets having only five tickets remaining; the VVIP tickets include rounder access backstage to all the performing artists. The event will also comprise a seated Gold Circle Ticket, which accounts for 50% of revellers to allow for easier enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and avoid a potential stampede.

In a bid to entice merrymakers to buy tickets, the promoters have come up with a layby strategy and buying tickets on an instalment basis for the attendees to be able to buy their tickets since the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many Batswana in financial ruin but having the interest to attend the event.

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WeekendLife

Fame vs Mental health

9th November 2021
Lizibo

One can only imagine what is like being in the public eye. It is not a walk in the park; and not as easy as people might think it is because of the pressure from the public. Celebrities or influencers are perceived to be perfect, perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect parents, financially stable, healthy, and always smiling and patient with everyone – Is this for real?

However, when people’s expectations of celebrities are not met, the same celebrities are often victimized, body shamed, or blamed, fairly or unfairly. As a result of them not having a personal life, they are often scrutinized in all aspects of their lives; their lives are aired for the public to see and judge. Celebrities are often extra careful about everything that they do, they have to go an extra mile as compared to how ordinary people live their lives.

To understanding this experiences by public figures, this reporter made a case study of Mr Lizibo Gran Mabutho, the firstborn in his family with only one sibling, his younger brother. Lizibo describes himself as a simple Kalanga guy who was chosen by music and did not choose music.

He said being raised by his mother and grandmother, he grew up surrounded by music from birth. Lizibo said his grandmother was a religious person who held church services at their house in Zwenshambe, “for me singing was from Monday to Sunday. I was not like any ordinary child who only sang at church on Sundays or sometimes in school assembly, for me it was a daily thing. My mother was also a talented dancer in our village that is what I mean when I say I did not choose music, but music chose me.”

Lizibo said though he grew up surrounded by music, it was hard for his parents to accept the path he has chosen to be a musician. Lizibo said he had to prove to his parents that music was his passion and that it could pay the bills like any other profession. He said eventually they saw his passion for music and supported him.

Lizibo said being exposed to music from a tender age made him venture into the music career from a tender age. He said he was part of the Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete (KTM) choir, Lizibo said being in the public eye for the longest time has taught him that he is living for the people and that he does not have a life. He said the very society that is watching him has so much expectation for him and that means he has to conduct himself in a good manner because people are looking up to him.

Lizibo said he understands the saying that great power comes with great responsibility, “when people see me, they see a role model. I realize and understand that people are and have been modelling me even when I was not aware of it, I know of six mothers who have named their sons after me because they felt that I inspire them somehow.”

He said he has accepted his fate that he will never have a normal life because people are looking unto him. He said he is grateful to be in the public on a positive note by bringing hope to the people because he has always wanted to be part of people’s solutions and not their problems.

He said, “people should understand that our careers are our calling. One needs to be spiritually connected to their calling as an artist. The most rewarding part about being in the public for me is not about payment but about being the solution to someone’s problem.”

Lizibo said the greatest challenge that he has ever faced about being in the public eye has been the issue of trust, not able to know which friends are genuine and which ones are not. He said as a way of avoiding fake friends he has always kept his four close friends who have been there for him through thick and thin. Lizibo said being close to his family has also helped him as they have been his strength when things were not going well for him, “most of the time people say we change when we taste fame. That is not necessarily true because people are the ones who changed when we became famous. People always want something from us, nothing is ever genuine with people and that is why I chose to keep my circle very small.”

Lizibo said as much as he travels a lot because of the nature of his work because it is naturally demanding, he said he always ensures that he creates time for his family. He said that at home he is Lizibo who is sent to do errands, he is Lizibo the son, not a celebrity.

He said there is a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, “the public puts so much pressure on us mostly about the material lifestyle they portray us to have. We are often compared with South African celebrities, but people fail to understand that we are two different countries. Most people fell into the trap and are living above their means resulting in them living in debt. I often tell youngsters not to fall into that trap of being tempted to live life above their means.”

The advice Lizibo gave to upcoming celebrities was that they should know that being in the public is not about them, but it is about the people. He said, “one of my mentors once asked me if I make music about myself or the people. He said I need to make music for the people because it is my responsibility to feed them with what they need, he said they might not even be able to know that they have a need but that I need to identify that need and meet it. Our responsibility is to serve people what they need, our music is to feed people’s hunger. My music is about love, I feed people love.”

Lizibo said it is important for celebrities to seek counselling and take care of their mental health, he said he has been investing in his mental health for years because he understands the importance of mental health especially when one is in the public.

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