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Gogontlejang Phaladi’s life story

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 At a tender age of four, popular child prodigy Gogontlejang Phaladi shocked her pre-school teachers when she told them that she wanted to go and look after her paralysed mother.

Her mother Onnameditse Phaladi had been involved in a car accident. “One day I was shocked to find her cooking rice,” says the mother. GG, as Gogontlejang, now 23, is known, has always been a rare child. What her mother recalls from when she was eight months old is that her nanny fed her traditionally-brewed drink because she would not sleep. She would then oversleep and when she woke up, her parents realised that something was not right with her. “Blood tests indicated that she had been fed Bojalwa jwa Setswana and when we asked the helper, she said it was because she was refusing to sleep,” she says. But again, even as a toddler, GG would always clean up after her mess and liked order, according to her mother.

She says that even when they forced her to watch children’s TV programs like Sesame Street, GG would refuse and opted for Molemo wa Kgang, BBC and CNN. Her mother says that even her bedroom was always adorned with pictures of state presidents and policy makers. What she also recalls is that at the age of five, Gogontlejang faced rejection after rejection when she wanted to register her NGO called Gogontlejang Phaladi, Pillar of Hope Organisation. The NGO is mandated with community capacity building, human rights advocacy, promoting gender equality and doing humanitarian work. It took seven years to finally register it. “They were saying she was young and suggested we register it in our names, which we refused. We even sought legal assistance,” she says. After her NGO got registered, then came another challenge: Traditional leaders would not let her address them at Kgotla meetings.

Her message was simple – That the poor, sick, women and children should be cared for. To them, it was a sign of disrespect for a child to address elders. But her mother says after finally allowing her to speak, they started wanting more of her. “They stopped demanding a Letter of Permission and started to praise her good speeches,” she says. While at primary school, Gogontlejang turned herself into an activist for children’s rights. Her mother says that she stood up and spoke against teachers who were sending pupils back for not paying school fees and for coming to school with uncovered books. “She’d go straight to the head teacher and say that it was not the children’s fault that their school fees weren’t paid,” she says.

Because of her rising stardom then, Gogontlejang was regarded as mentally-disturbed by members of the public. People were saying she behaved like an adult and that she should just be a child and play with other children. It was at the age of seven when her parents took her to South Africa to see psychologists who confirmed that she was perfectly normal, and that she is a child prodigy. “They told her that she was seven but had the mind of a 17-year old,” says her mother. Her father, Greek Phaladi, describes her as a humble and kind child. He says that he observed many differences in her from her age-mates when she was growing up. “Even at church, she maintained order and would report her cousins for misbehaving, yet she was five years old,” he says. Not too long ago, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II recognised her as the 10th Commonwealth Point of Light award recipient for her humanitarian work.

In psychology research literature, the term child prodigy is defined as a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert performer. Child prodigies are rare, and in some domains, there are no child prodigies at all. The list includes, among others, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, an Australian who first took up the harpsichord when he was just three years old. He composed his first piece of published music at age five, and by his teen years, he had already written several concertos, sonatas, operas and symphonies.

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JUST PROPAGANDA

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Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has refuted claims that she is under the radar of the Financial Intelligence Agency. Dr Venson-Moitoi who pulled out of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential race at the eleventh hour, was last week reported to have had her accounts frozen because she was being investigated by FIA.

It was alleged that the freezing of the accounts would have a negative bearing on her campaign as she could not access her funds. Responding to enquiries on the issue during a media briefing in Kang Village, Dr Venson-Moitoi said the allegations were far from the truth.

According to the former cabinet minister, all her accounts were clean and she was accessing her funds without any challenge. “The person who was saying all those things was lying. My accounts are clean as we speak. I was never confronted by FIA or anyone. As far as I know I am not under any investigations,” she said.

Linked to that, it had emerged that Dr Venson-Moitoi’s campaign was being funded from outside the country especially by the some rich families in South Africa. Reports then suggested that her source of funding was blocked through the intervention of FIA, and that even her accounts were frozen. She dismissed the reports as propaganda that was perhaps spread to soil her campaign.

“I am clean. This is why I am never mentioned in missing funds from National Petroleum Fund or those of Capital Management Botswana,” said the Serowe South Member of Parliament. Last month Dr Venson-Moitoi had reported to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General Peter Magosi that she was not happy that she is being followed around the country by security agents.

Magosi dismissed the claims on grounds that his organisation is not the only one that uses private motor vehicles.

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ARRESTED FOR RECKLESS DRIVING

Yvonne Mooka

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IN GOOD TIMES: The late Matlhogonolo with Simba in good times

Simba Mooketsi Mampori, 31, of Mbalambi allegedly killed his girlfriend in Bontleng, Gaborone and used her blood to scribble a message on the wall.

The message read, ‘Ke lapisitswe ke maaka’- translated to mean ‘I am tired of lies.’ Matlhogonolo Moshashu’s body was found inside his sister’s rented house in Bontleng.Mampori and Moshashu, 34, had a two year-old child together. Mampori allegedly killed her in March 31 by stabbing her with a screw driver, which was found inside the house. In an interview with The Midweek Sun this week, Otilia Kholiya, one of the tenants in the yard, said that she arrived on that fateful Sunday to find a yellow tape surrounding the yard with the police all over the place.

She said that she was the one who helped with cleaning. “He used her blood and wrote ‘Ke lapile ke maaka.’ I washed all the blood in the house by myself. Although police officers suspect that he used the screw driver they found in the house to kill her, I beg to differ. “That blood was just too much, it must have been something bigger,” she said, adding that they found a new dress that the deceased was going to wear to Mampori’s sister’s baby shower.

Another tenant Nicah Mandefu said that the house belonged to Mampori’s sister and that she rarely slept there and preferred her parents’place in Gaborone. She stated that she saw Mampori with his girlfriend arrive on Saturday around 4pm. “I don’t know him much because the house belongs to his sister. He probably just needed it for the weekend to spend time with his girlfriend who was staying and working outside Gaborone.

“They just greeted me and another tenant as we were sitting in front of our house. They stayed for 30 minutes and left. They would come again around 7pm,” she said. Mandefu said it was the first time she saw the deceased.

Murder
Mandefu said that Mampori’s sister arrived on Sunday around 9am, found her house locked and asked about his whereabouts. “She then told me that the lady he was with was actually his girlfriend and mother of his child,” she said. After some time, the sister returned to tell them that she received a report to say Mampori was found in Mmankgodi where he had tried to hang himself on a tree after killing Mashashu.

Upon failing to kill himself, he drove off recklessly at high speed, thus catching the attention of the police who stopped and charged him with reckless driving. “The police then noticed that he was not well as he had bruises from trying to kill himself. He could not even speak to the police but wrote down his mother’s phone number and gave them the keys to the sister’s house.

“They then took him to Thamaga Primary Hospital to be attended for his wounds on the neck, and later the police called his family and finally drove together to Bontleng where they found his girlfriend dead inside the sister’s house,” the neighbour tenant narrated to The Midweek Sun.

Serial killer
According to Botswana Police Service Deputy Public Relations Senior Superintendent Near Bagali, Mampori is also linked to another murder that occurred on 26 March in Gaborone in which a 39-year old woman from Molepolole was found with stab wounds.

At the time of his arrest, Mampori was awaiting trial for two murder cases committed in Mahalapye and Gaborone in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The deceased were his girlfriends. He was arraigned before Extension 2 Magistrate Court last Wednesday. He is incarcerated and expected back in court on April 17.

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