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Triumph in adversity

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DETERMINED: Thapelo Malani

Until the age of 12, Maitengwe-born Thapelo Malani could see. He was a carefree boy who was always the centre of attention as he liked to crack jokes and make people laugh. On his quiet days many would wonder if he was sick.

But in the blink of an eye everything has changed for this remarkable being. In four days, Malani now aged 22 years, had completely lost his sight due to a medical condition related to nerves. He explains that in those life changing days, his sight drastically changed, and soon, the sun was burning his eyes. He was a Standard six pupil and life as he knew it changed. As if that was not enough, a couple of years later, he would suffer another medical condition that tested his faith.

At the age of 15, he suffered a stroke that left him paralysed and bedridden for two years. But even with these two major challenges, the first born in a family of two (he was blessed with a sibling when he was 19 years) is still soldiering on, smiling and upbeat about life. Malani is the only visually impaired comedian in Botswana. He is using his blindness to share stories with his audience at the many stages that he has graced (both at home and in South Africa where he has shared the stage with some of the top names of comedy).

Comedy gave him something to smile about during his dark days. And he is using his craft to make others who might be going through similar situations to smile. What sets him apart from the rest is that this dynamite is a hard worker, and he is dreaming big. Take for example how during the interview, he asks this reporter to borrow him her eyes so that he can see her. He is the type of person who is destined for greatness. He now wants to capture the African audience, and grow his footprints to Europe and other markets in two years-time.

He was hurt when he lost his sight in December 2009 and left with many questions. “When I lost my sight, people did not believe me,” he explains adding that they thought that he was being his usual playful self. He spent the whole of 2010 at home, not going to school. But instead of spending his life wondering about why this happened to him, he accepted his new life. He later enrolled with Mochudi Resource Centre where he learnt Braille. “I accepted my new life, and looked forward to the future,” he said remembering all the dates and events as if it was just yesterday.

At 15 years he had another setback. On December 20th, he suffered a stroke that left him paralysed for two years. He was admitted at Tutume Primary Hospital and later transferred to Princess Marina Referral Hospital. From Marina, he was taken to a hospice in Metsimotlhabe. And physiotherapy really helped him, although he suffered one setback after another until 2014. In 2016, he turned to comedy and has not looked back since. The same year, he performed at the HICOFEST festival as well as the GIMC festival.

“I don’t give up easily,” he explained. He realised that since he is not educated, he needs to do something to earn a decent living. He has two companies registered which provide various services in Construction, supplies, and Air-conditioner installations and fridge repairs.

The companies are managed by his uncles who are very supportive. Malani urged others who might be going through various challenges to invest in self-development. “When you are looking for assistance from outside, you must have started something instead of starting with zero pula. That way people will take you seriously,” he said.

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A welcome snitch

Yvonne Mooka

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CELLPHONE TRACKER: Tebogo Aaron says criminals have labelled him a snitch for helping the police track people’s stolen property

Tebogo Aaron works hand-in-hand with Botswana Police Service to track down missing and stolen cellphones.

In an interview with The Midweek Sun, the 38-year-old man from Mahalapye says that on average, he traces between 25 and 50 mobile phones per day. He runs a store called Gadgets + Collectables, with two branches in Airport Junction and Phakakane’s Acacia mall.

Even though he sells a variety of gadgets, among them cellphones, Bluetooth speakers, laptops, it is the business of cellphone tracking that has given him a niche in the market. The Business Management and IT graduate says that his cellphone tracking business makes him stand out. “We are now in the era of cellphones. Almost every person has a cellphone and again, people steal them at a high rate,” he says.

Aaron provides police with leads, allowing them to do recoveries. He helps people who come with a police affidavit. “I have attracted hate from thugs thinking I’m a snitch,” he laughs.
But how long does it take for him to track down a cellphone? He says that the gadget becomes traceable the moment a sim card gets inserted inside.

His observation is that people have a tendency of buying stolen gadgets something he says is risky as one ends up charged by the police for buying a stolen item.
“Thugs steal phones with the intention to sell them, not to keep them. They want fast cash,” he says. And he says that thieves would go to an extent of creating fake Facebook pages to sell their stolen cellphones.

“Immediately after selling them, they delete the social media accounts while the buyer is left with it. People must take precaution,” he says. One of the people who have benefited from Aaron’s service, Lerato Lepang says her phone and wallet were snatched from her on June 4 in Molepolole.

“I reported with the police. A week later I heard of Gadgets + Collectables and decided to give it a shot. I went to the store on July 13 with a police affidavit as well as my phone details.“Five days later I received a call from them saying they had details of someone who had my phone,” she says. Another person Masego Mokgwatlheng says Aaron managed to recover her phone after a month in June.

She had forgotten it in a cab and traces showed that the cab driver had sold it to a Zimbabwean man. “I am now using my phone. It was made easier because I had a police affidavit,” she says. In addition to cellphone tracking, Aaron also tracks lost or stolen pets, bicycles and luggage. He has five employees.

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Mixed reactions to Masisi’s law on home-operated businesses

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President Mokgweetsi Masisi intends to simplify the process of starting micro-businesses to make it less demanding. This entails retracting licenses for starting small businesses such as tuckshop, manicures and many others.

The Midweek Sun went out on the streets to hear views of the people about the new bill.A boutique owner based in Kanye Thapelo Dioka said it is a good initiative but he worries that Batswana will even set-up businesses which are not environmentally friendly.

“I have long struggled and been unable to rent out my spare bedrooms to try feed my family, due to stringent procedures of acquiring licenses,” said Dioka. Kolobetso Maswabi lamented that for a long time young people have been paying expensive rentals. The new law will help in starting and maintaining businesses as there will be no rentals to pay.

“For some of us who stay next to big malls the law will be an advantage, I am going to operate business in the backyard,” she says. However some had doubts about the new law, describing it as a campaign strategy and a desperate effort to gain political mileage. They will only believe it when it is signed into law.

“Why would he retract licenses when elections are about to take place and there is a need for them to explain more on what they mean about small scale businesses,” asked another entrepreneur.

Tiraone Basenyafela, an entrepreneur with disability who does leather works, lamented that they have long endured charges for licenses and at times failure to renew the licenses results in losing them.

“I believe that only big shops should be required to have licenses, not small businesses and struggling individuals like me,” said Basenyafela.

President Masisi explained that the new law intends to help Batswana improve their livelihoods and graduate from poverty, but added that licenses will still be required for those seeking to deal in food businesses and others that could be potentially unfriendly to the environment.

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