A chief and a guide
For well over a decade, he has been living life on the edge, patrolling the Mashatu wilderness in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve.
Like a gladiator on two wheels, Kgosi Johan Rakumako of Pilikwe has led thousands of cyclists on bike safaris in the vast openness, amongst some of the biggest game mammals in the wild.
The 43-year- old, chief and one of the youngest member of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi has an unmatched passion for conservation and cycling.
A gunslinger of note, he’s also a pioneer of bike safari.
Ramumako is also credited with designing routes for the annual Nedbank Tour de Tuli, a mountain bike adventure exploring wilderness areas in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana for four days and five nights.
His experience and influence is now rubbing off on youngsters in Pilikwe and the entire Tswapong region.
The Voice reporter Kabelo Dipholo ran into Rakumako a fortnight ago at the Tour de Tuli event where he was one of the organisers.
In this interview Kgosi Rakumako talks about his past life in the wilderness, and representing 34 Tswapong villages at the House of Chiefs.
Q. Congratulations on yet another splendid event.
This is one of the biggest and unique events in the country and I’m incredibly happy to play my part.
Q. You’ve been a constant figure at this event for a very long time. Kindly take us back to where it all started?
Well, I’ve to start it from the very beginning.
I was born and raised in Pilikwe village.
After completion of my senior school, I did a couple of courses.
I did Professional Guide and studied Nature Conservation at Mmokolodi Nature Reserve Camp.
Upon completion I went job hunting and found an opening at Mashatu where I worked as a ranger.
Initially that’s all I wanted, but in 2004 I found an opportunity and I registered Cycle Mashatu which I ran for 12 years.
Q. Kindly tell us more about Cycle Mashatu?
It was a concession in which I offered tourists bike safari in Mashatu.
I’m one of the first people to do bike safari in Southern Africa, and through the support of management from the Game Reserve I was allowed to carry a rifle as I guided tourists through the breathtakingly beautiful Tuli landscape.
Q. Cycling through such a wild area, where thousands of elephants, buffalos and lions roam freely must require a special skill. How did you manage?
It has it’s challenges, but once you’ve studied animal behaviour it becomes easier.
My primary role as a guide was to ensure the safety of my clients, but also allow them to enjoy the scenic views, and admire the animals in their natural habitat.
Q. Have you ever had a close encounter with a wild animal?
I’ve had about six close encounters with elephants, and in one of the closest encounters an angry elephant trampled my bike.
Such encounters are to be expected, that is why it’s important to have a guide who’s well versed in animal behaviour.
Q. Back to Tour de Tuli. What role do you play in this charity event?
Tour de Tuli came to Botswana in 2008.
It used to be called Tour de Kruger and only covered South Africa and Mozambique.
When the event finally came to Botswana to cover the Tuli area, I helped with the logistics.
I availed myself to assist with anything the cyclists would need this side of the country, and that meant dealing with the Ministry, and all other relevant stakeholders.
I had also established routes which I used for my bike safaris and these are the routes that would later be converted to GPS coordinates.
It is a relationship built for over 14 years, and I’m always happy to be a part of this exciting and beneficial charity event.
Q. You’ve also inspired a lot of youngsters in Pilikwe to take up cycling as a sport. Kindly elaborate on that.
Yes, in 2018 I started Pilikwe Cycling Club, with the intention to encourage mountain biking in the area.
We face challenges just as soon as we were finding our feet due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
It is also an expensive undertaking, most of the youngsters I’m recruiting don’t have bikes, so there’s a need to equip them first for the project to take off.
I’m however hopeful that it’ll take off this year.
Q. Exciting! In 2016 you swapped your rifle and bike for the jacket and tie as Pilikwe Deputy Chief. Tell us about that.
It came as a complete surprise for me.
I was appointed to this position, and had no idea what to expect.
I later however grew into the job, and actually began to enjoy it as I was working with a lot of people.
I learnt to humble myself as a leader and received humility back from the people I’m leading.
It has been such a humbling experience and an eye opener for me.
This position has its challenges, but the good thing about chieftainship is that you’re never alone.
There’s a council of elders and wise men who’re always available to advise and show the way.
As a servant of the people, I serve with the utmost humility.
Q. It did not take long, you were catapulted to the House of Chiefs as a representative of the Tswapong region, as one of the youngest members. How has been the experience so far?
I went to the House of Chiefs in 2019, and once again I found myself working with reputable leaders from different tribes.
To me this was a vote of confidence from the 34 villages I represent.
I do not take that lightly, that is why I moved swiftly in trying to address some of the chieftainship issues in our region.
I’ve been successful in some, while others are still work in progress.
I’ve also come up with motions that were widely welcomed and passed by the house.
Q. Kindly share one of the passed motions?
I proposed that there should be a Ministry solely for Bogosi and Culture, which was well received.
I believe under the Local Government Ministry, Bogosi and Culture would soon be extinct, hence the need for a ministry that’d would advocate for their existence.
Q. Now lets get personal. Are you a family man?
I’ve a very small family.
I’m married and have one child.
Q. Besides your royal duties and time on the bike, how else do you have fun?
I’ve a passion for photography.
Actually it is one of my biggest passions.
I just love taking pictures of nature.
Q. Thank God Its Friday (TGIF). What do you have planned for the weekend?
I’ll be home in Pilikwe.
I’ll have to look at a list of bird species I haven’t yet photographed in Pilikwe, and will set out to capture them.
So I’ll be out in the bush taking pictures.