Tina Cocks commonly known as Tina Tameti is a 32-year old Khwai native, in North West District, who is proud of his roots and is reaping benefits of ecotourism through his business.
Born in Maun, but raised in a small settlement in the heart of the Okavango Delta in NG 19; Khwai, this conservationist, ecotourism businessman and a politician is tirelessly working to build his tourism business.
Cocks runs safari camps and mobile safaris through his company, Khwai Grounds Safaris and still finds time to serve the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as an additional member of the national youth executive committee (NYEC).
In this interview, he tells Voice journalist, FRANCINAH BAAITSE, all about his work.
Thank you for your time, kindly introduce yourself and tell us when and why you changed your surname from Tameti to Cocks?
Many people know me as Tina Tameti but I recently changed to Cocks.
Tameti was the name I adopted from my mother’s side and Cocks is my father’s name.
I was born in Maun at Maun General Hospital but I grew up in Khwai.
By tribe I am Mosarwa from my mother’s side and Moyei from my father’s side.
I did my primary school in Sankoyo, junior at Makalamabedi and senior at Maun secondary school.
From there I did technical and tertiary courses, including Human resource management specialising in tourism, conservation and interpretation.
I am currently running a tourism business but mainly offering accommodation and ecotourism activities.
I am also a young politician. My vision and interest is to have a smooth running business and politically I want to see fellow citizens in the region taking part in policy making and having space at decision making tables. I believe everything is possible, that’s who I am.
Interesting! How long have you been in the tourism industry?
More than ten years, but I will say since 2016 because that is when I received my first client.
Before then I was the chairperson of Khwai Development Trust and have worked in other safari companies to gain experience.
I then registered my company Bakgethi-Baremi & co now trading as Khwai Safari Grounds.
Bakgethi-Baremi is a special name which was so dear to my now late father, Gosetsemang Cocks Dipuo who passed away in 2009.
He had always said he wanted to own a company with that name. This is because he was into thatch grass business as the main transporter for thatch grass cutters, he would transport them between Khwai and Ditshiping sometimes from as far as Kachikau in Chobe.
He used to gather thatch in that area and supply camps and lodges. Sometimes they cut gum poles as well hence the name.
Sorry about the loss of your father. Are you a guide?
Thank you. Yes, I am, but not practising, I am into the technical part of running the office but when the need arises, I answer the call of duty.
What kind of business do you run?
We offer mainly tourism activities including mobile safari, mobile lodging around Botswana including all main tourism attraction areas such as Moremi game reserve, Chobe national park , Makgadikgadi pans and Central Kgalagadi game reserve among others.
Other main activities are campsites and tented accommodation targeting mainly self drives from neighbouring countries and from other destinations.
We also cater for those who want inclusive service; we pick them from Maun, drive them to Khwai, serve them meals, give them accommodation, take them for game drives and other sub activities.
What do you like most about your job?
It is challenging but also exciting because we have the power of knowledge.
It is interesting especially when you realise that white people don’t know everything.
In the bush they listen to us (chuckles) Tourism is a sector that brings money into this country and a second highest contributor to the country’s GDP after diamonds.
How is your typical day?
I am a very busy person and honestly I run all my duties parallel.
My daily schedule is that I behave like a director because there is a lot that needs to be taken care of.
I am always on the phone, internet, on the road and office and push everything until I am able to pay all bills, and ensure there is constant cash flow and that my clients and employees are taken care of.
I am also in a committee that takes instructions from the president and the BDP central committee, assigning us duties and errands to execute so we are always following what is happening around us.
We need to be up to date with what is happening on the ground. Our mandate is to execute any resolution given to us including by the women’s wing.
Talking about that, I heard you want to run for council seat, is that true?
Now that I have worked into the national politics, I understand what it takes to want to serve the executive and the head of state, I understand what obtains at central government and what I need to do at local government level.
Yes, I am considering contesting for a council seat but I am yet to decide where between Khwai , Sankoyo-Mababe and Maun.
Somebody mentioned Sedie ward in Maun, is that where you live?
No, I stay in Disaneng, but I grew up in Sedie because that is where most families from settlements around Maun settle when they relocate to Maun.
That is where you will find many extended families, so our extended families are in Sedie including mine.
Elders and many people in Sedie know me, but Disaneng is where I have built my matrimonial home and that is where I will spend my old age days, so if I was to contest in Maun then I would most probably choose Disana.
Why would you want to run for council seat?
Passion and advocacy! My political involvement is about my interest to serve my people.
I think it is an inborn thing, I have a slavery mentality which makes me to always want to serve others.
I just can’t enjoy what I have when others are suffering or disadvantaged.
We all have to participate in the country’s economy and through tourism value chain for instance we have to see positive mind set and people reaping rewards of natural resources around them.
If you look around for instance people in an around Maun are supposed to be living comfortable lives through tourism value chain but they have nothing to show for it, they are broke and hungry yet opportunities are there to pursue.
Don’t you think maybe policies that are in place are making it hard for citizens to reap meaningful rewards from tourism?
So many policies are being revised and I believe instead of calling president Masisi Talk-Talk as many are doing these days, young people have to pay attention to what he says and take advantage of available resources.
We need to change our mindset and when programmes are being introduced, apply and benefit from them without playing a doubting Thomas.
If there is a time to develop ourselves through government programmes, that time is now.
Tell me about your childhood days, how was it growing up in Khwai?
It was hard, we did not have access to basic education like the rest of children in the country.
We lacked a lot, there was no primary school and no pre-school.
At the time creche was the in thing and we wished to experience it, to gain communication skills from a young age so that we could build self confidence.
You know it takes courage to stand in front of a school teacher and a classroom full of new students.
But I was fortunate because my father was a councillor so when others were taken to boarding school of Rural Administration Dwellers (RADS) in Kareng, I was taken to Sankoyo to study there, yet I was a RAD.
So I grew up as a dreamer. I used to see tourists passing through Sankoyo into the Delta and I knew that one day I was going to participate in those trips.
So you have made it?
In part yes. I felt motivated then from a distance and even now I still want to do more.
I want those tourists to spend their strong currencies in our country rather than them just passing by.
That’s what we need as a country for everyone to reap from the tourism value chain right from the moment tourists reach our borders until they leave, because they bring in a lot of money.
What is the hardest part about your job?
It needs me to be available all the time because it involves a very fragile and sensitive product, which does not take compromises.
As you work in the wilderness, have you ever experienced a close encounter with wild animals?
Not all the time but yes I was once attacked by an angry elephant.
We were driving in the bush so while we waited for one to cross the road, a bigger elephant approached from the back of our vehicle, on full charge, fortunately we had room to escape as it was attacking from the back.
Given your hectic schedule, how do you juggle work with family time as you are a married man?
It is not easy, It has been tough. It takes an experienced man and fully grown man to work these things out.
We are still struggling but, it takes a lot of compromise so you strike a balance, sometimes as men we just have to submit and do what your wife asks of you. I can’t have a final say all the time.