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Project Sanitize Maun has closed its first phase of donations to the Ngamiland District and is preparing for phase two of COVID-19 interventions.

Having donated over 22 000 masks and around P3 million worth of both perishable and non-perishable stuff to the North West District Council since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the project chairperson, TEBOGO BOALOTSWE talks to FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA about his team of COVID-19 heroes and their charity work.

Q: You have been giving generous donations to the Ngamiland community since the coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of the year, tell me about it?

We have closed phase one of the projects in which we were contributing to the COVID-19 relief fund, but we were not directly contributing to the Office of the President via its office in Gaborone.

Instead, we decided to contribute through the District Commissioner here in Maun and most of the beneficiaries were under the North West District Council.

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Most of the donations were mostly commodities needed by communities. This was a purely local government project.

Q: I believe yours were among the biggest donations in the country and probably the biggest in the district. How did you make this possible in such a short period of time?

Our contribution was in two phases.

There was the non-financial aspect of it and the financial contribution.

I worked with a team that played a very big role.

In that team, there are two coordinators.

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We have project administrators including air transport coordinator who is a pilot.

We needed his expertise so that we are able to calculate flying hours correctly and organise our trips well.

We needed to transport material into the Okavango Delta and therefore we had to have an expert in the transport industry to guide us in terms of the terrain.

We also needed someone who understood the Delta very well and hence we had to pull in the expertise of someone with a rich knowledge of the place.

So in short we brought in a team of expertise from different fields including storage as we were dealing with both perishable and non-financial goods.

Q: So whose idea was this?

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It was actually my idea to come up with a project like this and I had to bring in Fanos Deaconos and Robert Barber who are my two coordinators in the project to help sell the idea to other businesses.

We managed to organise a small team, as we had to adhere to COVID-19 rules.

The small team allowed us to meet regularly and to reach out to the bigger community while practicing social distancing.

Together we appealed to the wider business community and they responded positively so we want to thank the Maun business community for that.

Q: Commendable! But what is it that drove you to start the project?

The fact that government started Covid-19 relief fund and encouraged donations inspired us.

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We realized that as the business community we had to rise to the occasion and to come forth and match government efforts.

Q: Sounds very patriotic!

We often talk about government-private partnership and government has always tried to extend its hand to say look come let’s work together.

It is not only in business initiatives or issues of business that we ought to collaborate with government.

We also ought to collaborate with the government whenever it needs us or it’s in trouble or fighting a pandemic like the one we are talking about right now.

So we saw it fit to respond as the Maun businesses community.

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We are just thankful that we were able mobilise to raise resources.

Q: There are allegations that some of the businesses who are in the forefront of donating are trying to indirectly curry favor with the local and tribal leaders with food hampers in exchange for hunting concessions. How do you respond to that?

Look, it is not only Safari companies that are involved in this initiative.

Like I have mentioned to you before, we also have people who are from other sectors such as transport logistics, retail, and other industries who are part of Project Sanitise Maun.

We have individuals who have seen that we are taking an initiative to help the people of Maun and these are individuals that are from Maun even outside Maun who saw the need to contribute whatever they could afford to help the project and they have nothing to do with consumptive and non-consumptive tourism.

Q: Understandable.

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Yes, some are retired and not even running businesses and some are outside the country.

So they have no interest in land acquisition.

Again we were not contributing directly to the communities but through the council and District Commissioner’s office that are the facilitators in the region.

Of course, the whole point at the end of the day was for communities to benefit, so whatever we gave benefitted the whole North West region including the Okavango.

We even hired local female tailors to sew over 22000 facemasks for all primary schools and some secondary school learners in the Maun Administration Authority.

Q: As you wrap up phase one what would be your next step? Are we not going to see you close shop entirely very soon?

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NO! Already the District Council has briefed us on phase two of COVID-19, so we are still planning to help until the pandemic eases off.

We are only closing phase one and getting into phase two of the project, so we remain available to help whenever we are needed.

Currently, the council is not facing much pressure to distribute hampers to the people so we are most likely to help in transportation where services are needed in hard to reach areas.

Q: Will this project end with COVID-19?

I don’t think so.

Beyond the COVID-19 relief efforts, we see project Sanitise Maun turning into something that would actually be a place where businesses meet with the government to see how they can lobby and collaborate towards uplifting the community.

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So whether we will change its name into something else, it remains a subject to be discussed because ideas have to come from all members of the community to see how best we can move forward.

We will see but something will happen. One of the practical lessons we have learned from COVID-19 is that the government and the private sector need each other.

Q: Since you have been briefed about phase two of COVID-19, what is to be expected from this phase?

The DC only briefed us about phase two.

We are not yet aware of the logistics.

I am sure they are still talking to their principals.

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Q: You have supplied so many masks and sanitary materials to local schools, does it mean you have a special interest in the education of Ngamiland children in general?

As a project we are trying to build for future leaders.

We want to make sure that the children get educated in very good and conducive environment.

As we were trying to ready the businesses to comply with controls of COVID, one aspect that needed to attend to urgently was the school environment.

That is why we donated 22000 masks to all schools in MAA.

We also wanted to clarify misconceptions we saw in the media that there was a tender for masks, which we were engaged in.

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That was not true.

We were never engaged in any tender.

As it is, we are arranging with the council to visit some of these schools that we donated to and see if there are any gaps and see how we could guide the children in proper usage of the masks.

Q: But the council clarified that the tender was not for primary schools!

But that still needs to be clarified because our donors think we were involved in a tender, yet it was not the case.

It was just people trying to put their foot where it did not belong.

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Q: Besides the project what else do you do for a living?

I run my own businesses, I also run an entertainment place called Boalotswe Residence in Matlapana.

I am the main sponsor for Maun Waste Warrior and a member of the Tawana Landboard.

Q: Were you one of the board members who were fired by the former minister and then reinstated?

Yes, I was one of them who were expelled by the then minister, Prince Maele around 2018 or so, but the issue was resolved amicably and we were reinstated by honorable Mzwinila and to date, I am still a member.

My membership ends next month but I will not be seeking another term.

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I have not applied for board membership.

Q: You surely are a very busy man, how do you make time for your family?

If I am not in meetings then I am home and in most cases, I don’t go out during weekends and that is when I spend time with my family.

I am about helping people so I do admit most of the time I have back-to-back meetings but I always find time to make it up to my family.

Q: Any last word?

We are trying to build a caring and su[pportive Maun community.

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The time has passed whereby we just have to be spectators and watch the government and council do everything for the people and our country.

This is the time the government and private communities have to match each other’s efforts for the good of the nation.

Q: Do you have political ambition?

That’s a difficult question, but one can never say never.

Q: Thank God it’s Friday, what are you up to this weekend?

It’s a long weekend so I will be home with my family and most likely a meeting here and there.

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