Written by Staff Writer
By Giorgos Megalos, CNN
Botswana’s government has lifted a two-month-old ban on traditional sport tag games after local businesses said the move was “discriminatory.”
“The ban is simply unacceptable, inhumane and demeaning. We’ve repealed it as a matter of urgency,” said Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi in a statement on Tuesday, a day after allowing the kipfali game tag tradition to resume following several weeks of protests from businesses that viewed the ban as unfair.
A number of businesses and tribal elders said the ban violated a statute dating back more than a century that prohibited both sport and business activity on burial grounds.
The ban was adopted in late October following complaints from Akagera National Park’s leadership, who described the sport — a derivative of hide stealing and game classification — as violent and “hostile” to animals.
“We call on our brother, President Masisi, to show his hand by ordering the immediate reinstatement of the traditional gathering zones,” said Xolisani Chamanga, the community coordinator for the park, in an interview at the time.
Game tag begins
The ban applied specifically to the Akagera, Sabi and Voi games of tag, events that were scheduled to continue over the New Year.
Nonagenarian community organizer Sitholeo Muvhepha said participants — mainly men who would travel as far as 4,000 miles to participate — were “incensed” by the prohibition and resorted to carrying cinder blocks to block entrances to the park and elsewhere.
“It was cruel, really cruel and inhuman for the government to ban this sport,” he said, according to CNN. “The ban was just taken in the name of the animals that are killed. It’s not. It’s a game that has been going on for well over 100 years. And that does not belong in any park.”
The ban came at a time when government officials were less engaged in the sport because of mounting resistance to President Masisi’s calls for renewal of the government’s land policy, a tribal chief said at the time.
“The ban simply became a pretext. If this was said to protect the animals, then the rules should apply to everyone,” said Barhenile Dhosa, the Kavegwe ya Kavang Chief.