Lorato Bontle* is everything that any child would ever dream to have in a mother. A resilient and inspirational mother who has the strength of a thousand women, Bontle is a sterling example of the lengths and depths that some parents would go to give their children a better future.
Fourteen years ago, Bontle gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Tlhabi*. Tlhabi is currently doing Form 1. She is confined to a wheelchair due to a condition known as Amelia (born with no legs and arms). She is unable to do any basic tasks without any assistance – such as bathing herself, getting dressed, and many others that other able-bodied people can do. Tlhabi will be one of the beneficiaries of this year’s edition of the Desert Bush Walk slated for this Saturday in Jwaneng.
She has a number of needs, and organisers are hopeful that they will be able to assist. Every morning, since she started school, her mother has literally been with her at every chance. Using an old wheelchair that does not have any straps to hold her safe, the two take the walk and wheelchair ride to and from school every morning and afternoon, and the mother does this with a smile and swears it is what she will continue doing for as long as it will be necessary. What makes her even more extraordinary is that besides Tlhabi, she has three other children, the eldest being 23 years old, and her youngest being just two months old. Ideally, she should be in confinement as tradition dictates caring for the youngest member of her family, but that is not the case.
She told this publication that life has been treating them well, despite the daily challenges that they face. Bontle’s role at school is to assist Tlhabi when she has to use the bathroom, feed her and do other things that she needs help with. A teacher-aid handles the other responsibilities to do with education. “We rely on the support of her school peers, and school administration including her teachers such as Lekwalo Thobega,” she explained. This has obviously affected her because while her focus is on her daughter, her life is literally on a standstill. Having accepted Tlhabi the way she is has gone a long way in making life easier for her in the community.
For her part, Tlhabi who sat quietly dressed in her beautiful dress and a girly jacket, said she really appreciates everything that her mother has done for her. At school, she is in love with two subjects – Religious Education and Office Procedures – and wants to have her own office one day! “I actually want to be a doctor when I grow up,” she said as she smiled shyly, adding that she really enjoys her time in school. “I love going to school and learning. One day, I am going to make my mother proud and do something remarkable for her,” she said. Thobega, a Counselling teacher at the school, described Tlhabi as a beautiful soul with a very strong character. She pointed out that other children would have long given up on going to school but that this is not the case with her. “One thing that makes her even more special is the fact that everywhere she goes, everyone has to stand and accommodate her,” she said.
She noted that Tlhabi needs essentials such as a special toilet, a wheelchair, a walkway for the wheelchair. She also needs special books as she uses her neck to hold a pen. “She is doing very well at school, and enjoys her education a lot,” she said. To ascertain her needs, local NGO, Diamonds of Hope recently took her for assessment at the Jwaneng Mine. A representative of the organisation Sethunya Moala explained that they will take her to Johannesburg for further assessment. She said that Tlhabi needs an electric wheelchair, limbs, and that they will see how they help her.
The NGO has been in existence for three years, and their focus is on charity work. Other projects that they have been involved in include working with the Matsha students who were involved in a truck accident some years back. They have also assisted a Moshupa resident who lost her property to a house fire to mention a few. She said that they hold a fundraising dinner every year and that was how they heard about Tlhabi. Bontle* and Tlhabi* are pseudonyms to protect the identities of the subjects
NEW AGE POLITICIAN
Botswana Democratic Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Kanye North Constituency Thapelo Letsholo advises his constituents to go for youthful competence, result-oriented representation and shun the outdated and usual political rhetoric.
If elected, his main objective will be to turn Kanye North into a progressive and result-oriented constituency. He will achieve this through unifying all levels of government with the goals of his people. Letsholo brings vast experience in business, retail management, communications and strategy having served corporate entities that have international reach.
He is confident that his professional expertise, particularly in strategy development, brand positioning and corporate reputation management, puts him in a prime position to be entrusted with effectively articulating and interrogating possible solutions to challenges faced by the constituency and the country at large.
Kanye North constituency needs new age representation that is in tune with the needs and aspirations of the current and future Kanye North voter. “That is exactly what I distinctively bring to the constituency. My intention is to consistently and continuously be available to all constituents, predominantly in person through such forums as dikgotla.
“However, across various interactions with the residents of Kanye North, we are in agreement that there is need for more communication platforms that will form additional contact points with the Member of Parliament (MP).“I therefore have an ambition to set up a call centre and develop a mobile application that all, especially the younger generation, can utilise to communicate with their MP and inform him of such areas that need his attention,” he says.
He will interrogate and positively confront all answers given by different ministries, departments and service providers for service lapses and challenges facing the constituency so that there can be increased urgency, vigour and adherence to timelines for service delivery and promised projects in the constituency. Some of these projects include the long standing water problem, Kgomokasitwa/Tshweneyagae Road, a sports stadium, youth unemployment and transforming the main hospital in Kanye into a more efficient and effective health care centre.
Confirming that a challenge exists by civil servants at Kgotla meetings can no longer be accepted as an appropriate and accepted response to the problem. “I am going to continuously and consistently agitate for clearly defined deliverables on how the specific challenges will be overcome as well as strict adherence to the associated timelines,” he says.
Q. You mention some challenges that have long existed. What will set you apart from MPs that came before you?
A. I believe in the philosophy of collective thinking. I don’t wish to present myself as a sole solution provider, and I don’t intend to mislead my constituents by offering and presenting myself as such.
Q. Women representation in political office has been a great challenge. What is your view on this?
A. The issue of women representation in politics in particular is very broad and has less to do with women’s capability but more to do with mistaken societal attitudes towards women’s ability to lead in general. This negative view should be tackled from the boardrooms through to politics. We need to emphasize equal opportunity and ensure gender balance across board. Throughout my tenure in business, I have fully appreciated the tremendous capability of women, to the extent that in most of the businesses I have been associated with, the majority of employees have been women and held leadership positions in the different divisions.
Q. What is your view on corruption and institutions put in place to fight it?
A. Corruption is a sign of a society whose moral values have been eroded over time. Therefore the sustainable solution is to take a long-term view to reverse the current decay.
At policy level, there is need to reconfigure the reporting structure of institutions charged with the responsibility of preventing corruption. There is opportunity for the institutions to report directly to Parliament, with the Heads of those institutions also appointed by a committee of Parliament. Their recruitment ought to be public and transparent, and their credentials, integrity and fitness to hold public office publicly interrogated. Their term of office could also be fixed to a specific period and non-renewable, such that their continued deployment is not at the pleasure of the appointing authority.
Q. There has been a general problem of youth unemployment, how are you prepared to address it?
A. Kanye North has a significant population of young people with big dreams, enormous ambitions and incredible aspirations. I have a real interest in working collaboratively with the youth, through continuous engagement with them and other stakeholders, to make the dreams of our young people a reality.
Moreover, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has committed to enable thousands of jobs mainly targeted at the youth, in the arts, creative and entertainment sector. To bring this to life, we have a strong ambition to work with the private sector to create Botswana’s first Television Production Incubation Centre in Kanye to give our local talent the opportunity to produce content initially for Botswana Television but ultimately for international consumption.
The fully equipped Incubation Centre will provide the necessary equipment, guidance and execution of various concepts proposed by creatives. This concept has not only already been developed for Botswana, but has also already tested in various other countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, resulting in the creation of jobs for the youth
Q. Given your acknowledgement of the magnitude of youth unemployment, as a successful businessman what have you done to alleviate the problem?
A. I am a passionate entrepreneur and a business leader. The companies that I have established permanently employ over 27 young people, mostly below the age of 30. My commitment to enabling and facilitating the development of our exciting and emerging talent is relentless.
Q. Noting that entrepreneurship is an alternative to solving youth unemployment, how do you intend to support those in this pursuit?
A. Given the limited opportunities in Botswana as a relatively small population but abundance of talent and skills, there is need to take a new approach towards starting and growing businesses. There is tremendous wisdom in the adage “moroto wa esi ga o ele” and that “noka e tlatswa ke melatswana”. The youth should embrace merging of different skills and talents as opposed to working in silos in turning gaps identified in the economy into viable business opportunities.
There is greater value in five individuals coming together and setting up a business and reaching out to a client as a service provider, as opposed to five individuals approaching the same client and competing amongst themselves.
Q. Education results have been declining throughout the country, how are you going to address the low pass rates?
A. Rather than teach children so that they can pass exams, the school system should be enabling learners to collaborate with each other, identify their strengths and setting them up for lifelong learning.
This approach will motivate and inspire learners to take ownership of their own learning in a motivated manner and consequently reduce apathy in their studies. In realization of the above, the BDP has also committed to an overhaul and modernization of the school curriculum, to enable us to respond to the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It has further committed to the establishment of a skills fund aimed at retooling our graduates for the current job market.
Boko has failed his constituency – Mokgethi
Botswana Democratic Party Parliamentary hopeful for Gaborone Bonnington North Annah Mokgethi says area Member of Parliament failed to utilise the P10million constituency Development Fund to develop the constituency.
Every year government allocates P10 million to each of the 57 constituencies for developments under the ministry of local government and rural development and councils coordinate the projects. Mokgethi told the media in Gaborone on Tuesday that UDC president who is also area MP, Duma Boko was supposed to have pushed for projects to be done in the constituency.“As we speak there is nothing but the constituency has been having an MP and councillors in the past five years. “Crime is high in the area because there are no streetlights in most of our roads. Our people are attacked under the cover of darkness. Our roads are still dusty but you take our neighbouring constituencies they have paved the roads using these funds.
“We are behind because our MP has neglected the constituency ever since he was voted into office. There is nothing that he can show as a development he advocated for under the fund,” she said.
Mokgethi, a lawyer by profession, will be launched this coming Sunday by President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Since its inception in 2017 the fund has been marred by controversy as MPs argued that they are not being taken on board in the projects.Vice President Slumber Tsogwane who at the time was local government minister, said it was wrong for council secretaries to snub MPs when councils consult residents on developments to do with the fund.
Mokgethi told the media that representation is about service. She said she is willing to represent the people of Bonnington North. “The people of this constituency are yearning for representation. They need a representative who will have enough time on his/her hands to attend to their needs and interests. Someone who will have an ear inclined to their needs,” she stated.
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