The Cactus Patch
Volume 7       January 2004      Number 1

Meetings, Music & Movies
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

A number of workshops were crammed into the last weeks of November since December is a dead month here with everyone taking Xmas leave. First, there was a workshop on the Monuments & Relics Act on 18 Nov. Most of it was on archaeology, but I did repeat the plea for compliance with the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment before development, citing the shopping center which has been built in the Segoditshane River Bed as an example of non-compliance. This issue was finally raised at the recent session of Parliament here and a commission of inquiry will be set up.

From the 18th through the 21st, I attended a meeting of the Commonwealth Science Council for Eastern & Southern Africa on innovative technology. Most of the time was spent on traditional medicine, but other topics did get a mention. The chairman was James Seyani, formerly a colleague at the herbarium in Malawi but now a bigwig in London. On the 20th we all went out to Mokolodi Nature Reserve and had a game drive which included elephant, cheetah and rhino. We were allowed to get out and pet the cheetahs, a first for me (as I'm sure it was for most of the group). This was followed by dinner at a hilltop campfire. Incidentally, the workshop was held at the Oasis Hotel, a long-time favorite of ours because of the swimming pool and giant chess set. A new place, the Cactus Lodge has just opened up next to it. We'll have to check it out.

Finally, from the 26th through 28th, there was a workshop on Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights at the University of Botswana. I had the official duty of summing up two of the presentations. I made the point that present laws are based on individual ownership, but traditional knowledge is communal and requires a new approach such as working through community trusts. (We are trying this approach with national monuments since the museum can't possibly manage all of them.)

There were other workshops such as Community Based Natural Resource Management and Heritage Protection, but I had to delegate attendance at these.

As if the meetings were not enough we then had a marathon of music. On the 28th our choir sang the Creation by Haydn. Polly did not go solo this year as it is written for Soprano, Tenor & Bass soloists (who were imported from South Africa). The next evening we joined other choirs in "Opera Bravo", a selection of numbers from operas which featured local soloists. President & Mrs Mogae came. (The two events were planned back to back to use a hired orchestra, but due to lack of funds we only had two pianos.)

Our choir had a Christmas Party at our president Mike Main's house on the 1st. There we learned that Mike has produced yet another guide book (with Alec Campbell, founder of the museum) which was to be released the next evening. So we trotted off to buy a copy and get it signed by both authors. It is called a "Guide to Greater Gaborone" (Botswana Society, Gaborone, 2003; a mere P137.50 or about $27), and it stretches the term "greater" to the limit by going all the way down to Mafikeng in South Africa. It is terrific on history but weak on everything else. I told Mike a few of the things to leave out next time - like rhinos in the Gaborone Game Reserve (they haven't been there for years).

Not having had enough of music, Polly & I went to the annual music camp from the 7th through 13th of Dec. It was at Kanye this year and Polly did choir while I joined the jazz band. (I signed up for orchestra, but I was the only one. The recorder group was also dropped. Its seems Music Camp is also suffering financially.) Despite problems, we had a great time. On the 11th we all trooped out to Mosenekatse Hill which has stone walls left from an Iron Age group. It gave us a chance to try out Mike's new guidebook which proved useful. (Ron Pahl, a Peace Corps Volunteer, our colleague at Seepapitso Secondary School in Kanye in 1969, mapped the ruins which were published in Botswana Notes & Records Vol. 3, 1971.) The hill gets its name from the Amandebele leader Mzilikaze who tried to extort white cattle from the Tswana there. (He had fled up to what is now Zeerust in South Africa because of pressure from Shaka Zulu. Due to further pressure from the South African Dutch, he eventually moved all the way to what is now Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.)

On the 16th of Dec. our choir sang for a candlelight carol service at the Game City Mall. After that Polly & I went across town to the Riverwalk Mall for a midnight opening of the third "Lord of the Rings" movie. (This beats the opening in California, as we are ten hours ahead!) Appropriately we had read the trilogy while travelling through the Kgalagadi back in 1969! Tolkien, the author, had roots in Bloemfontein, South Africa and much of what he describes is reminiscent of Lesotho.)

Another film which opened on the 5th was "Hot Chilli" billed as Botswana's first commercial film (I guess wildlife films don't count). For P100 we had a buffet dinner and saw the premiere. It's a very Tswana story which we had seen on stage and probably won't appeal to Americans (although the director studied filmmaking in Chicago).

We saw other films, but did not see "Nowhere in Africa" which was supposed to be shown at the Village Cinema but despite several tries, we failed to be there the same time as the film. It was finally shown as the opening film for a weeklong series sponsored by the European Union, but by then we were at music camp.

I can't think of an M-word for snakes, but I did run into a Snouted Cobra (also known as an Egyptian Cobra as it is said to be the one that killed Cleopatra) in the Botanic Garden on the17th of Nov. This is the first poisonous snake I've seen there. Polly also found a thread snake at music camp, but these tiny things are fortunately quite harmless. This was only the second I've seen. (The first was last year at music camp!)

The beautiful rains of November have fizzled out and December just gets hotter and drier. Everyone who plowed will be disappointed.

We are hoping to have a nice quiet Christmas at home.

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