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Kabelo Dipholo
OUTSPOKEN: Freelance Tour Guide, Kamwi

DRTS causes hundreds of Safari Guides to lose jobs.

There’s panic among local tour guides following a move by the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) to de-register most of the tour vehicles as light and classify them as heavy duty.

The Voice has been reliably informed that a number of vehicles in the Chobe area have been weighed, and immediately classified as heavy duty trucks, in the process rendering their drivers, who mostly have Class B driving licenses, jobless.

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The Vice Chairperson of Botswana Guides Association (BOGA), Peace Shamuka, confirmed this in an interview with The Voice on Wednesday afternoon.

Shamuka said the process has been ongoing for a while and has caught a lot of guides by surprise.

“It’s a worrying development, and I wish government could have warned us,” he said.

The BOGA Vice Chairperson was worried that the move would result in massive job losses in the industry.

“Most of our young guides don’t have heavy duty driving licenses, and it takes time to acquire one, so I plead with DRTS to give us a little bit more time to adjust,” he said.

Shamuka said what is even more puzzling about the move is that they are not allowed to use their cars to practise for the heavy duty license.

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“You declare my car a heavy duty truck, and on the same breath you bar me from using it to practise for the acquisition of a Class B Licence. That is very strange,” he said.

While this move, set to be enforced in June 2022, may cripple the industry and affect many careers, for freelance guides, it’s a double whammy.

Baitshepi Kamwi became a freelance guide after parting ways with Flame of Africa, and life has just got difficult for him and his fellow guides.

“Almost 80 percent of us don’t have heavy duty licenses, and sadly for us freelancers we don’t have a voice,” he said.

Kamwi said while BOGA is vocal and always speaks to protect rights of guides, freelancers don’t enjoy the same courtesy.

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“We’re on our own, and we can’t even afford to join the NGO because of the monthly subscription fees. Imagine that a freelancer is paid P150, and the jobs are few and far in between. Where do you get money to subscribe?” he asked rhetorically.

Kamwi said as freelancers they need to demand better pay for their services, or else they’ll become destitute.

“Tour operators have increased prices, renewing fee has been increased and prices for activities have also been increased. Why shouldn’t we increase our charges,” asked Kamwi.

The outspoken tour guide said as freelancers they intend to charge P450 for game drives on a standard vehicle, and the same for boat cruises.

“Lastly, I hope the minister will get involved and save our jobs,” Kamwi said.

Efforts were made to seek clarity from DRTS but, at the time of going to press, we were yet to get a response from them.

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