By Tshegofatso Molefe
The biggest motor sporting event in the country, the Toyota Kalahari 1000 Desert Race, famous as Mantshwabisi will take place in Upington, South Africa.
Botswana has been the home to Toyota 1000 Desert Race since 1991, traversing thousands of kilometres in several areas including Gaborone, Lentsweletau, Mantshwabisi Hatsalatladi, Kumakwane, Jwaneng with the last stop being Selibe-Phikwe.
From 1991 until the move to Kumakwane in 2010, the race started from high profile venues in Gaborone, with an overnight stop at Mantshwabisi before heading back to Gaborone for the finish. Because of this overnight stop, the race was then nicknamed after the village Mantshwabisi. The event then moved to the west taking in the Kumakwane and Molepolole areas.
Furthermore, in 2014, at the request of the Botswana Tourism organization which is keen to see the community benefit from the impact of the event, the race then moved to Jwaneng. After meeting the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the TDR 1000 relocated to the mining town of Selibe-Phikwe in 2019, for a period of 3 years. The EIA requires the race to be changed every five years.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the relocation of the host venue provides continued interest in the event and new challenging terrain for competitors which is in line with building a sustainable future for the race, attracting new entrants and retaining loyal competitors.
Following the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 with numerous events being cancelled or postponed in 2020, The South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) and Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), in consultation with their stakeholders announced that the Toyota 1000 Desert Race has been called off.
Subsequent to many postponements of the off-road race in Botswana due to COVID-19, in 2021, the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) signed a three years deal with Upington to host the race in South Africa.
Conversely, in order to maintain the stature of the event it has been decided to postpone the event in Botswana until 2023, when we believe the situation with Covid 19 should have stabilised.
“The only marathon event on the South African Cross-Country Calendar, the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race, will take place in Upington for the second year as a result of uncertainties posed by Covid 19 and the resultant complexities in cross boarder travel for the competitors most of whom come from neighbouring countries.” BTO said on a press release.
According to the press release by South African Cross Country Series, the discovery of the Omicron Virus made the situation complex leading to a decision taken by the South African Cross-Country Series at the end of 2021 to again host the event in the Upington area.
Ultimately, discussions are ongoing with relevant stakeholders to ensure preparations for the year 2023 are on track, and Botswana partner and local co-ordinator, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) assures all business partners and race enthusiasts that everything possible will be done in anticipation of the 2023 event.