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When the hymen was broken by strangers

Matshediso Fologang

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Marriage along with its arrangement and associated preparations has changed. We have adopted the tradition that has obliterated our past. This past weekend my cousins and I had a long discussion on the matter.

We reminisced about yesteryears when we were teenagers. At the time almost all the marriages were arranged by the parents. A few of the marriages were solemnized in church for those who had converted into Christianity.

Amongst the Ba-ga-Malete of Ramotswa right until 1980, many young men and women went through traditional rite of passage. Bojale and Bogwera were used partly to determine the right age of marriage. Many of us, boys and girls alike, went through our teenage lives having not tasted the forbidden fruit. At the time it was a taboo to unplug the raw fruit. Hence the saying “tlogela lekgela le butswe.” Indeed many of us started very late in our lives. Majority of us were naïve on matters of sexuality. Sadly too, such issues were never subject of discussion, even amongst adults.

When the majority of girls were married they did not have even the slightest idea about their own sexuality. As we sat and chatted over our calabash of traditional beer we recalled a story of a female age mate who was taken away from school to go for bojale. Upon return a few months later, she was brought in to a pre-arranged marriage with a man that all of us knew could be her father. Her consent was not sought because such marriages were between families and not individuals.

As her young school-going age-mates, we became privy to her bedroom escapades.
As was tradition, she was drilled into the nitty-gritties of marriage at bojale. More instructions were made clearer on the day of patlo by her aunt and the married women of the village. She was admonished from playing or sitting around unmarried girls. This particular girl was like all of us still immature and above all a lekgela.

This was considered a good sign in a daughter who was well brought up. To us her age mates, this monnamogolo was like an intruder. At the time, the practice and expectation was that on the first night of marriage, the couple was to break the drinking pail(sego). The man usually had some knowledge of sex. These were the most difficult nights. The young wife would have never been held and introduced to lovemaking and yet was obliged to make love to a man she hardly knew. Many stories of such young girls trying to run away from these total strangers were common.

Since we then lived in traditional huts with no permanent doors, it was expected of the aunt to sleep just outside. The idea was to guard the newly wed from running away. The aunt had a duty to persuade the niece to endure the pain. Such were nights the hymen was broken.

Don’t dare ask me how I got the details. My age mates and class mates who were forcefully withdrawn from school remained my friends till today. In this dot.com era this sounds weird. But such was life.

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Ebenezer!

Yvonne Mooka

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This year marks my 10th year as an employee of The Botswana Guardian and The Midweek Sun newspapers, under the CBET Pty Ltd company.

I still remember one afternoon of 2010 when I was in Francistown. I was waiting for my graduation from the University of Botswana where I did Bachelor of Media Studies. I had just started a freelancing job with Mmegi in the Ghetto when one of the Guardian/Sun managers Tlotlo Mbazo called me offering a job opportunity. See, during our time, UB newspaper- then known as The UB Horizon was hyped and big.

We distributed it across newsrooms in the country. In addition to this, one of my former Journalism lecturers Julia Cass had advised us to always cut our articles and keep portfolios and later send them across media houses for opportunities. So when MmaMbazo called me about an opportunity that had come up, I knew she had seen my work that I had submitted a few months before closing at UB.

Coming into the Guardian/Sun newsroom the first days was exciting yet challenging at the same time. I found many male colleagues that were also very loud and pushy. Intimidating. At times, annoying. Some were old, reminding me of the set up in international newsrooms where journalists are older. The 24 year-old me then was timid and emotional…but zealous and curious. I was impressed however by the female journos that oozed energy and passion.

The truth about the media industry is that there was a time when it was male-dominated. Women were thrown into light beats and strong ones were tackled by males. Though it was the case with Guardian/Sun then, seeing the likes of Phemelo Ramaribeng nee Ramasu pursue News was encouraging. Her human interest stories to a larger extent  contributed to my love for Human Rights issues.

I worked under the leadership of great men who all shaped my career in special ways. The likes of peculiar Mpho Dibeela who has since gone into newspaper ownership; Mike Mothibi, the sophisticated writer with a passion for farming; courageous Abraham Motsokono who called a spade a spade and not a big spoon; fatherly Ernest Moloi who helped build resilience in me; Mbazo, woman of the board who leads tenderly but with a stern posture; Justice Kavahematui with a very calm demeanor; Joe Brown-Tlhaselo the perfectionist who pays attention to every detail in the paper – in fact it was Joe-Brown who welcomed me the first day by offering me a chair and lunch! And then there is  Boitshepo Balozwi, my editor-turned-friend who every now and then blesses me with pearls of wisdom when ‘the devil wants to lie,’ as well as Dikarabo Ramadubu, our moving encyclopaedia.

Still under this list falls Beatrice Mbulawa, the magnificent General Manager who came with a unique style of managing a media house as a finance-steel lady. Joel Konopo and Ntibinyane Ntibinyane have always been deep hence their now establishment of the bullish INK Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2012, they took me to Amabunghane Centre for Investigative Journalism in South Africa where my mindset changed altogether. That was an investment that I will always use in my Journalism. Douglas Tsiako also deserves recognition for always believing in me. Special mention of Ditiro Motlhabane for always putting me on my toes about my stories as my News Editor.

My colleagues across every department in The Guardian/Sun throughout the decade, both new and old, have been fascinating. The team is a rare, winning breed. Group dynamics is as real as it gets but I can say unfazed, that I learn a lot from every single individual in our newsroom. The energy here is right. It’s amazing.

So much can be said about my decade in our newsroom. Perhaps, my number one lesson is that of servitude. Journalists are servants. They should serve. At church we say EBENEZER – Thus far the Lord has brought me. Thank you.

Facebook/Instagram: Yvonne Tshepang Mooka
LinkedIn: Yvonne Mooka
Twitter: @yvonnemooka
Email: yvonnequeen2003@gmail.com

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The thrill of being boys in the fields of plenty

Matshediso Fologang

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Boys will always be boys. This weekend after a long time I took a walk from my maternal ancestral mekgoro/ditlaagane to the southwest, much along the recently ploughed masimo. In this journey all memories of the early 1960s came to mind.

Then boys were generally a law unto themselves as they could move all over and invade the masimo and take ripe magapu and nche (water melons and sweet reed) without the owner’s consent. Such was known as “go itaya khutu.” It was never considered stealing but helping our boyish greed. This weekend as I traversed these fields with green ripening products I couldn’t help but reminisce about my youth. The things we did then?

We could just raid a field and help ourselves with whatever was ripe. Such acts were punishable by caning of the wrong doers. Still such did not deter the boys from the adventure. Such was the things the boys did with such impunity. Such acts of thuggery were only lessened by some fear of certain fields that were known to be owned by dingaka (traditional doctors) and baloi (witches). We had serious superstitious beliefs that we knew we could become crippled or die if we dared help ourselves with produce from such masimo.

Walking through these masimo, I went deeper into the area and started remembering the past like it happened yesterday. Activities I was part of just came back to mind like these happened yesterday. I recalled one such day we were herding clan cattle and goats. Around midday we realised our morning fill was no more. We were a bit hungry. How could we be hungry in the midst of plenty? Boys being boys, we raided the next nearest tshimo. We helped ourselves with water melons.

We carried our loot into the bushes nearby. We had a feast.  Just as we were ready to leave, one of us came up with a story that the old lady whose field we had raided was a moloi. It was revealed that she would find out who had stolen her melons. Panic and fear gripped us. She was going to get us all dead. She would just doctor our footprints. Such stories we had heard in our daily lives but for us to be potential victims was the worst nightmare then.

Living in a superstitious society then, the things we did then make me just laugh today when I look back. On this adventurous day we drove the cattle and goats up to the nearest hillocks. Something bad happened. As we had almost forgotten the earlier fear, we now raided the trees for indigenous fruits. We climbed up these trees to pick the fruits. One of the boys accidentally fell down and injured his back.

Being products of a superstitious clan the only explanation we could make for this accident was the curse (boloi) of the owner of the melons we had earlier stolen. The next problem we faced was to explain the visible pain our colleague endured. Tradition had it then that anyone who had fallen from a tree would eat his meals from a bed pan until he healed. We all bullied the victim not to show signs of pain.. We were cruel and it was all about being boys. Such was being boys.

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