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Anecdotes of a town girl in the village

Keletso Thobega

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I recently had an interesting discussion with a few acquitances about whether denying our children a taste of traditional Setswana life is unfair.

I argued that some of us are products of urban migration and so are “victims” of circumstances beyond our control. I have often been referred to as a ‘coconut’ but I think it is mere perception. Most of us millennials are urbane.

Many people argue that being detached from rural life – cattle posts, lands and so forth – signifies us being “lost.” I find the assumption that being ‘black enough’ should be identified with an understanding and experience of rural life quite archaic. I think it does if you were ever exposed to that life. I cannot yearn for something I never experienced. I have always been a town girl, raised in the “hood” and I’m proud of it.

Growing up as a little girl, I disliked the village. I still do. I recall as a little girl during school holidays, my mother would tell me that we were visiting my grandmother for the day. But in the evening she would disappear on me and I sulked until I went to bed. There was no electricity and television.

We had few “luxuries” such as a standpipe in the yard and a telephone line. We listened to an Omega 3 radio. The nights were always dark and long. My grandmother had lived alone since my grandfather died and she was comfortable with her life.

The poor old woman tried to make me enjoy my stay but I just did not like the damn place. I preferred it when she visited us in town, and many years later, I was happy when she moved in with us because I could not stand the village.

It wasn’t necessarily the slow place and the environment that I disliked but also the duties. In town, we had a helper and there was convenience. In the village, there was a lot of work to do and some of the tasks were no walk in the park. Firstly, I was expected to bring water into the house from the standpipe daily. I would wobble and shake that by the time I got to the house, the bucket was half empty. The other task was feeding the chickens, which was easier.

The nightmare was collecting the eggs. On some days it was simple. But on other days, like on this one particular occasion when I had a stroke of bad luck, there was nothing to smile about. My grandmother told me to collect eggs from the chicken coop. I saw two hens and chicks idling about. I tip-toed towards the coop and there were four eggs.

Little did I know that there was a hen near the outside toilet adjacent to the coop. As soon as I stretched out my hand to take the first egg, I had a loud cuckling. I looked up and there was a hen charging at me. I turned on my heels but it chased me down the stoned pathway to the house.

I was a chubby child and could not outrun the chicken. By the time I wobbled into the kitchen, it had given me four sharp pecks. On another occasion, cows entered the yard. My grandmother asked me to chase them out. I was scared of them (I still am) so I stood at the front stoep, picked up stones and threw them towards the cows shouting: “Shoo cow, shoo!” They did not budge. My grandmother stormed out of the house and berated me: ‘Wa re shoo, gatwe tlhaa!’

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Bureaucracy impedes youth empowerment – Tshekedi

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama said government’s bureaucracy hinders youth participation in economic development.

Speaking during the Youth Awards on Saturday, Khama explained that the society has adopted the word bureaucracy and they live with it. “This word has contradicting terms with the way the youth think, this confirms the space between the youth and how we deliver. The honour is on us to deliver an enabling environment, we talk so much, we have had discussions in pitsos,”

He pointed out that, financial institutions have difficult regulations that hinder youth to access funding for their respective businesses. “When a youth approaches a financial institution, the first question would be where is your pay slip?, secondly, what security do you have? And they will say it’s bank regulations. We live in the bureaucracies of these regulations and it has become our DNA,” said Khama.

Over the years, government has introduced programmes that promote youth entrepreneurship, which include financing, capacity building, market access and marketing an outreach. Currently, the ministry is reviewing the Youth Development Fund to improve training of beneficiaries and encourage consortia and cooperatives.

Recently, when presenting the budget for the Ministry, Khama highlighted that the youth cohort constitutes the majority of the population and this is supposed to present the country with an opportunity to harness the demographic dividend. “Their energy, educational level and technology skills should be exploited to propel our country forward,” he said.

He also indicated that the youth is faced with socio-economic challenges including unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. “Therefore we must intervene to give them the best possible opportunities to achieve their dreams and help our country realize the ideals of vision 2036.”

Meanwhile, government disburses P120 million yearly as funding to youth enterprises and about 919 businesses have been funded in the last financial year. The youth have raised a lot of challenges in doing business, including high rentals for operating space, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities.

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Have a clear succession plan for peaceful transition

Matshediso Fologang

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How have we as a people treated succession? Though in our society succession has always been determined along patriarchal lineage, traditional leadership succession has not always been smooth.

There are known stories where families broke up in a battle for succession. Immediately in my mind comes the last split of the Ba-ga-Malete in 1892. The succession was based on the bravery and not on the strength being the first born child. Throughout Botswana many merafe have a history of succession that didn’t follow the rigidity of patriarchy.

Batswana as a people believe that talk is far better than war. Ntwakgolo ke ya molomo. We are a people who would spend a whole lot of time openly discussing a matter before a decision could be reached. Discussions on any matter put before a gathering of family, clan and morafe was never finalised without thorough discussion. All present regardless of their economic strength participated fully without hindrance. Decisions thereat were reached through consensus. Traditional leaders would skilfully announce the collective decision arrived at.

The good thing about this method of allowing all to participate – Mafoko a kgotla mantle otlhe and the Mmualebe bua gore monalentle a tswe lagwe – was basically premised on the principle of what our current crop of men and women who have read big books would call “participatory democracy.” Democracy therefore has never been an imported phenomenon amongst Batswana. Democracy has always been in our DNA. Regarding succession therefore it has always been based on the consensus of the majority.

The leader though selected among the royal family, his character also played an important role in determining his suitability. As we embraced western type democracy we have in our different political homes defined our succession plans. As a nation we have defined our processes of succession. In the age and era where, unlike in our tradition, we have written these, we do not therefore rely on memories. Our forebears relied on memories and nothing was ever in black and white.

However, our forebears knew succession if not properly handled could bring strife and instability amongst morafe. We were then not part of a collective of nations and therefore what transpired in our little morafe did not necessarily impact our relations with other merafe that much. If not handled well it could create a loophole for other merafe to wage a war against the morafe .

If any such person who had been overlooked for whatever reason felt strongly about such decision, he would either remain part of the morafe as a junior leader or migrate with his supporters. Peace would prevail. Even those who had held fort for their younger siblings would want to hand over a united morafe to his successor.

In modern society, a predecessor takes pride in the performance of his choice of successor. Travelling through history one envies the succession of Kgosi Ketshwerebothata Ikaneng and Mokgosi III and that of Kgosi Mmusi and Linchwe II. Such were Batswana leaders who worked together for the better interest of the merafe they led. What now and whither peace and love for the downtrodden?

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