Botswana Invasion Day 1: Tempers Flare — Apology Offered

After few delays we finally made it to Botswana on Thursday evening. Unfortunately we arrived late for the welcome cocktail party held at the hotel and that might have precipitated the tension that erupted during the Q&A session. 

Some background; we are invited to Botswana by the Gauteng Tourism Authority with the aim to promote the South African province as a tourism and business destination. Guided by the Gauteng Creative Sector Strategy, the Gauteng Tourism Sector Strategy and the Gauteng Growth Employment Development Strategy which all emphasises the need to capitalize on the province standing as Africa’s creative hub with a strong manufacturing and creative media sectors, the organisation  coordinated promotional in key source markets in the SADC and West African regions. 

Upon our arrival in Botswana we headed straight to the event and were able to catch the second part of the proceeding. At this time two speakers took to the podium. Sergen Kabisoso and Sifiso Dlangamandla spoke of their strides within their respective industries and how the Botswana and Gauteng governments have aided in the growth of their respective initiatives.

Kgomotso Pooe, from Soweto Outdoor Adventures
The floor was opened for question and that is where things went array. After the usual talkshop question which somehow turned to follow the creative industry involvement and given that we were told that there were media personal, thought leaders and influencers in the room, it became pertinent [atleast for me] to ask question that would advance a dialogue. 

Let me step back and give some context. As guests of our Botswana hosts, we as South Africans, especially the media contingency have an obligation to our readers and public back home to be informed and learn from our neighbour country counterparts, so we can impart that insight to our people.

I asked this question: 
We have the fashion weeks, robust celebrity culture, magazines, etc but when you peel the veneer off there no sustainable financial gains. Our industries are not making money for our creative practitioners except for few. Yes you read that our designers are showcasing in New York or Paris but often they are spending money and not making money off of these 'opportunities'. What is Botswana doing to harness the creative talent of the country and create profitable employment opportunities for their creative industries? And how does that tie in with your tourism initiatives? 

The motivation for the question was simply to get some insight and tips from our host country on how we as South Africans can learn from them and improve on what we are doing. Right off the bat the question was not received well. There was a defensive tone to the answer. 

Following that few more questions were asked that send the whole thing array. Now this is where I believe an apology to the Botswana people is warranted. At some point a travel journalist said all she knows about the country is Gaborone and what has the government of Botswana done to promote other places in the country. 

Seemingly fair question, though one can argue that as a travel journalist it is for her to expose herself to more information about our neighbour countries, but perhaps the tone or the mood in the room was off because following this question the exchanges became very adversarial. 

While I respect and understand the stance that our Botswana hosts have to take to protect their country's image, I was shocked when a speaker told us that we are not in Botswana to ask them what they are doing but we are there to promote Gauteng and basically should stick to that. I was flabaggasted! 

Yes we are invited to Botswana to promote Gauteng, however we can not miss an opportunity to ask questions about the industries in this country. It makes no sense. I can't travel all this way and get back home not having gotten some new insight about the country I visited. As an entertainment commentator, should I do an interview about this trip on any platform, I would be expected to share more insight, especially pertaining to the creative industry, than just what fun I had here. 

Again, the mood might have been heightened by the fact that we were late and it was a party so we had some few alcohol. I also would not completely dismiss the notion that our hosts were being overly defensive, it is to be expected with our perceived arrogance as South Africans by our African family, but I still feel this could have been handled more professionally. 

Well, I was raised to not always think I am right and to open myself to other people's viewpoint. I have learned in my years on this planet that when someone says you have offended them, just apologise. They are the ones receiving your words so they know best how it feels to receive them — thus if they are telling you, the words are offensive, accept it and address the issue later when emotions have cooled off. 

Perhaps more importantly, I offer such apology with the understanding that the Gauteng Tourism Authority invited us here to engage with the Batswana on a positive level. They carry the burden of our behaviour on this trip. With that, I feel an apology should be extended to them too. 

I can't speak for everybody but for my part in the exchange, I sincerely apologise to the Batswana people if I crossed the line by trying to learn something about their industries when all they wanted was for us to come and just promote Gauteng Tourism. 

Friday is Day 2 and we have a full list of exciting things to do here. Hopefully the events of Thursday night will have passed and we can start afresh. This is indeed a wonderful country and I'd like to experience it with a positive frame of mind. 

Follow my trip to Botswana courtesy of Gauteng Tourism via Twitter on the hashtag #GPLifestyle

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