- Want the tropic of Capricorn’s iconic monuments to be dismantled and the stones be returned to Francistown where they originate
- Say they were not consulted
- Want the iconic monument to be built where it will benefit Francistown
FRANCISTOWN: Francistown councillors have expressed their displeasure and disapproval at the erection of the Tropic of Capricorn monument using unique stone formations from their constituency without their knowledge and called for its relocation to their place of origin.
Infuriated councillors say that monument is made up of natural stone formations that originate from Francistown, Gerald Estates, and that they were not consulted when the formations were removed from where they were discovered. The stones were discovered in 2011 by Unik Construction Company during the construction of Gerald Estates Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) houses.
The columnar joints landmark was recently unveiled by the former president Ian Khama before leaving the presidential office. The iconic monument, according to the Department of National Museum and Monuments is intended to attract bypassers and teach them about the country’s heritage sites.
While the Tropic of Capricorn’s iconic monument has long been unveiled, last week the Francistown councillors took a swipe to the department of National Museum and Monuments for taking the stones that originate from their city and use them without their knowledge. Their contention is that while the stones were supposed to attract tourists to Francistown where they originate the government has denied people an opportunity to visit the site of their origin. “The erection of these stones at Tropic of Capricorn has denied our city to also have the heritage site that always attract tourists. At least the iconic monument could have been erected around Francistown so that people will have an opportunity to visit the heritage site. As things stand Francistown is not benefitting anything from that monument,” argued nominated councillor Peter Ngoma calling for the relocation of the natural formation to Francistown.
The councillor for the area where the stones were discovered Ruben Ketlhoilwe expressed frustration at the Department of National Museum and Monument insisting they were undermining Gerald Estate residents by not engaging with them when the stones were removed. “What frustrates the most is that no one, even among the leadership, was consulted when these stones were taken to Tropic of Capricorn. At least you have consulted the leadership. The residents are so angry and want to understand who authorised the relocation of these stones without their knowledge. We want those stones to be returned where they originate,” Ketlhoilwe said.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) nominated Councillor Zazambi Tuelo agreed with the councillors who called for the return of the stones to their place of discovery. Tuelo’s concern is that despite the stones originating from Francistown no recognition was given to their place of origin. “Since these stones were discovered in Francistown our expectation is that Gerald Estates will be given mileage by stating on the iconic monument where exactly they originate from,” argued Tuelo.
Further the nominated councillor wanted the Department of National Museum and Monument to give them insight on the law that guided the relocation of the stones. “The people who relocated the stones never considered that their decision will stop tourists from coming to Francistown where stones originate. This means that the place where the stones were discovered will now be abandoned though it is a heritage site and should always be visited,” the nominated councillor added further supporting the argument that the iconic monument at the Tropic of Capricorn should be dismantled and the stones be returned where they were discovered.
The Botswana National Museum Deputy Director Steven Mogotsi acknowledged that they made a mistake by not consulting the residents of Gerald Estates, further promising to apologise formally. “We have noted all the concerns and we want to admit that indeed we made a mistake by not consulting you and the relevant stakeholders. We will schedule a meeting with the leadership of Gerald Estate to come and apologise. But in return we are planning to build a mini museum where the stones were discovered in order to the place one at the heritage site,” Mogotsi revealed when reacting to Francistown councillors concerns.