Lightning has struck twice in one place and it’s a great day in Daunara.
At least it’s one of the greatest days since tourists stopped coming for mokoro rides due to the Covid-19 border lockdown.
Just recently, the new kid on the tourism block, Lion Pride Tours and Safaris came to the villagers’ rescue with a donation of much-needed food. Today, the company has returned with clothes.
When the gift-bearing visitors finally arrive, one-by-one villagers slowly emerge from the bushes surrounding the kgotla. The yards are miles apart.
Daunara is one of the Okavango Mokoro Trust member villages who make a living by taking tourists on mokoro trips.
Unsurprisingly, it has been a tough year.
“Since the tourists stopped coming we are not getting anything. While they were coming we could get some bit of money to buy something to eat and clothes!” laments Yarobi Samati, as her companions show The Voice their worn-out shoes.
“It’s true we’ve been assisted with a bit of food but you can’t just have food and no clothes,” Samati adds.
Originally Daunara was a San settlement and they gave the place its name, ‘home of the lion and the buffalo’.
Not so long ago, the land was bursting with buffalo and lions.
“Dau is a lion and Nara is buffalo in serarwa (San language). We are Bayeyi, who came here after the Basarwa left. When we settled in Daunara with our late parents, there were no motor vehicles passing through these parts. Our parents transported white people in mekoro (dugout canoes). They raised us here and left us with our children here in Daunara,” Samati reveals.
She repeatedly repositions her loose Covid-19 mask, which keeps slipping stubbornly down to her chin.
“First we would fetch magxuma (an edible wild fruit that grows in the area) and throw them at the whites for money until our parents blocked ‘dindoba’ (water channels). Whites would leave their vehicles in Daunara, board our boats for Xoronga. Our parents watered crops from these resulting wells and so they were named after them,” she explains, her voice reflecting the excitement of memories of the good old days.
However, life changed with the arrival of the elephants.
“We didn’t know elephants here until in the late ’70s. Our parents used to cut grass, cross the delta and head for Maun to sell and buy mealie meal and sugar,” interjects Keledi Motakapula, pulling up her headscarf which doubles as a Covid mask.
“They would go to Okavango to cut mekoro trees and make the canoes here. They used to force impala into the water then ride into the water for the kill while the animals were trapped in the water. They also had fishnets for fish and would dig tswii (Nymphaea Nouchali) and feed us. They also taught us all these survival skills.”
Lion Pride is offloading plastic bags of clothes worth P15, 000 from their vehicles.
About 50 residents have turned up, defying the heat to get here. They are settling down under the Mophane shadows.
The elders are worried that if they do not get at least a pre-school they might be forced to abandon their beloved settlement for Maun.
“You see, if we get a school, our children who stay in Maun so that their children can attend school would come back home. They are really suffering out there; we would love for at least a teacher to be sent here,” Moabi explains as Bojanala ward Councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo announces the beginning of the big moment.
Headman Molathegi Wazime is greeting the visitors and urging the residents to welcome ‘Mma Abbot’ and her company.
Segopotso Angela Abbot is a UK-based Motswana businesswoman who operates businesses in Botswana. She recently acquired land in nearby Katamaga where she has set up a safari camp, Lion Pride.
“We should welcome this woman in Daunara. She will piggyback us. When she starts bringing the whites there will be a lot of opportunities for us. Don’t hurt her lest she gives upon us!” warns Wazime.
Councillor Motlaleselelo has similar words of praise for the Good Samaritan.
“When Covid struck there was relief programme by the government whereby anyone who donated would be recognised but Lion Pride didn’t want that because they knew you would recognize what they are doing for you Daunara residents. The owner of Lion Pride is a Motswana and me, therefore, would like to urge Batswana who can afford it to help our fellow Batswana and be an example to others.”
After all the residents have received a bag full of assorted clothes, there are still enough garments remaining to fill many a wardrobe. The residents are advised to group themselves in threes to share a bag per group.
With smiles on their faces and bags of clothes on their backs, the villagers slowly disappear from sight. After a difficult year, Christmas has come early to this small Okavango dwelling. The lions have returned to Daunara bearing gifts!