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Walking with lions

Walking with lions

Meet Gosego Mosweu, a 29-year-old Manageress of Dinaka camp, situated just outside Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).

The camp is run by one of the big safari operators in the country, Ker& Downey, Botswana.

Born and raised in Selebi-Phikwe, this Bobonong native’s passion for bush live is unrivaled.

In this interview, Mosweu speaks to FRANCINAH BAAITSE about being a woman in the tourism industry, and surviving lions, and gender-based violence.

Kindly share your background and how you ended up in the bush?

I grew up in the small mining town where both my parents and three of my siblings stay.

I did all my primary school there and I did my Junior High in South Africa.

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I came back for Senior High in Phikwe, Selebi Phikwe Senior Secondary School.

From there I went to Botswana Accountancy College in Gaborone where I did my Tourism Management degree.

After that, I worked as a travel consultant/agent, which was around 2014/15.

Currently, I work as a female Manageress at Dinaka bush camp alongside Tebogo ‘Tebza’ Thogo being the male manager.

Have you always loved bush life?

As a travel agent, my passion for the bush grew when I started going for educational trips, where you go for tourism indaba in South Africa, Sankanai/Hlhankanani world tourism expo in Zimbabwe and all that, where I would see itineraries and I loved those with bush based activities.

I enjoyed that more than the hotel and city life theme; that is when I realized that Gaborone wasn’t for me.

I resigned in 2016 from a tour company based in Gaborone and moved to Maun and the passion grew, the fire wasn’t stopping.

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I applied for jobs in many safari companies and it was Ker & Downey that gave me that chance to start with in-house training.

During the training, you get to work and learn in all departments.

That way you get to learn the complete operations of the safari camp.

We do all departments including male duties to empower us as women.

We do everything, including maintenance, servicing power generators, changing vehicle tires so that when Tebza falls sick, for instance, the job continues.

I am able to do all that.

I am everywhere from changing pillows, setting plates on a dinner table to administration.

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I understand you can be out in the bush on shift for up to four months at a time. As a young person, doesn’t this affect your love life?

What’s nice about this company is not only does it say that we in Finance Management stay longer than general staff, but we are given the chance to bring our families and allow them to actually visit.

So my partner does come to visit, but what we do now because of Covid-19, we have a protocol that they have to take a Covid test first.

That is not a problem because I have a very understanding partner who understands that I have a passion for the industry and is very supportive.

He is always there. When there is time he visits, he visits a lot!

Do you have a child?

No, I don’t.

But trust and believe me when I do have a child I am going to bring him or her to the bush.

I want this ‘thing’ to continue running in my child’s blood.

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I even have plans of making the nursery with stuffed animals.

I have already started collecting stuffed animals for my unborn, un-conceived child!

What are the challenges of being a woman in the tourism industry?

Men always feel that we are unable and too soft for the bush.

They feel for one to be in the bush they have to be all macho and look strong.

I am a tiny woman but I am very much able to soldier on.

It is part of life, I lift tables and chairs when I need the job to be done but sometimes men make you feel as though you have to live every day trying to prove a point that you as a woman can also do it.

But in cases when lions come closer, to whom do you run?

It is normal to get scared but eventually, you get used to it.

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The more you get into the bush you get used to the environment, whether you are male or female.

You may be aware that when we are seated with you out there or around the fire at night, you guys will be relaxed but we will keep checking the coast.

If I spot a lion I will tell you to slowly rise and move back and when we are safely on deck I will then let you know that a lion was creeping closer and there it is!

Tell us about your first encounter with the king of the jungle?

They were so close I could feel their breath!

They were about three meters from where I was on walking alone on the deck.

I had to talk to myself and keep calm.

That is what you do in the bush, you talk to yourself a lot and do self-counseling.

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But I was very scared!

We also carry handheld radios so I called Tebza Tebza, ‘I am near room two and spotted a female lion, I need help and he told me he is stepping into room two and that I should remain calm.

So that is how we do it, we keep communicating until the lion moves away.

Afterward, I was shaking and thinking ‘that was very close, but after that, we made fun of it.

Moving from lions to difficult guests, how do you deal with those?

This industry needs somebody who has a lot of passion for it.

The same way you run any service-providing business, you have to deal with different clientele and always put on a happy face.

In business, you leave your problems at home and must be professional at all times.

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I am a very sensitive person but at work, I don’t show it at all.

Seeing new faces is what excites me most.

But sometimes we get very difficult guests; what you need to do in this industry is to stay calm because facial expressions are very important.

You have to pay extra care that you don’t frown; your words, your tone is very important so with passion you can suck it up and tell yourself that what is important is that I am going to make this person happy at the end of the day.

What else do you do for fun besides bush life?

I like swimming and playing tennis.

Swimming is one sport I grew up doing a lot.

Honestly, I could be very far with the swimming.

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I remember when [Naomi] Ruele represented Botswana at the Olympics, my mom was on top of me about it that ‘my child this could have been you’.

I swim a lot and I love it.

If not swimming I am out with my partner.

When I am not working we are always together at the farm riding quad bikes.

That is our life, just simple and quiet.

We are used to the bush, he is a quiet person and he enjoys the bush and he watches me swim.

Walking with lions

DRIVEN: Mosweu

If you were President for one day, what would you do?

Oh my gosh, I think I would change a lot in terms of women’s abuse, I will tackle that fast.

We are losing many women, and it is not like they haven’t reported the abuse before.

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But because nothing has been done about it they end up losing their lives.

I am speaking from experience because I have been there before and it is something that I am still living with today.

That person almost killed me, but I never got justice.

The culprit still walks free from the first case and in the second case he was never arrested.

I still have the scars to show and as a reminder of my almost-death experience.

I had walked out of the abusive relationship and because of that he broke into my house and nearly killed me and I think that is why I feel the bush is one of my safe-havens.

I got into the bush that same year.

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Thankfully there is a lot of support from this company.

Finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are you up to this weekend?

I really wish I had guests this weekend.

If I had them I would do one of my favorite sundowners at one of the lookouts in the bush.

I do great sundowners there, I love doing enhancements for my guests so they can have a cocktail at the end of the game drive, candles lit, and probably in the evening make a fire for them and maybe dinner by the pool or on the star deck.

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