Tag: Botswana

Festive funerals celebrated after tears

What do an alcoholic beverage and a funeral have in common? An ‘after-tears’ drinking spree. In Botswana, as in many other African countries, funerals are a colourful feature of every weekend. They are a time to comfort the bereaved family and give the deceased a decent send-off. But while funerals used to be a conservative, somber affair they have now become social events of note, and booze is a big part of it all.

What do an alcohol beverage and a funeral have in common? An ‘after-tears’ drinking spree. (Pic: stock.xchng)
What do an alcohol beverage and a funeral have in common? An ‘after-tears’ drinking spree. (Pic: stock.xchng)

The endless demands on careers and home lives make it difficult to find time to meet old friends and relatives. For many a funeral is not only a chance to feast but a rare chance to mingle, unwind with relatives and reunite with friends. The after-tears, which is more prominent in urban and semi-urban areas, is the perfect chance to catch up with that cousin who had a baby daughter a few weeks ago, the relative with a knee problem and the successful friend you went to school with but haven’t seen in years. Think of it as a picnic that’s not really a picnic.

Alcohol too is part and parcel of Botswana society. In a country with few recreational facilities, hitting the bottle is a habit many people have adopted and there are no boundaries on where people can enjoy their drinks. Neither a 30% alcohol levy nor restricted operating hours for bars and liquor stores have altered the drinking patterns in this small country.

The after-tears drinking spree is a social practice common in European countries like Britain and Ireland. After the funeral, attendees at a wake may enjoy a drink and propose toasts or make short speeches reminiscing about the deceased. In Botswana it’s not an official occasion but effort is put into celebrating the late person in song, dance and drink.

Although traditionalists, conservatives, religious pundits and teetotalers are often critical of this new trend of drinking after burials and throwing massive “chill sessions” that stretch late into the evenings, mourners, especially the youth, aren’t perturbed. Many young people’s lives are claimed by car accidents, passion killings and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. Scores of funerals are held for young blood every weekend. “Gone too soon” is often the slogan of the day.

Mourners converge
After the funeral and burial, mourners converge at one venue, whether a local bar, field or at the deceased’s home to share a drink. If the person who passed away was popular, a regular pub crawler or drank alcohol, rest assured the after-tears will be a bigger affair, just short of being a bash.

Women often come with their heads uncovered showing off new hairstyles. Some arrive dressed in skimpy dresses and too-high heels reminiscent of red light district workers as they prance around like peacocks. The men are also never left behind in their smart suits and trendy accessories.

Cars are parked. Boots are opened. Cooler boxes are pulled out. Bottles are corked. Ice is mixed. Drinks are poured. Alcohol flows like the River Nile. Camp chairs are placed around. There’s a lot of handshaking, backslapping, air kissing and hugging. Those who haven’t seen each other in a long time hold on much longer. There’s lots of chattering, gossiping, laughter, winking and reminiscing.

The crowd increases as more people arrive. Some look for new lovers, make friends or expand their business networks. People are introduced. Numbers are exchanged. Deals are sealed. As time goes on the fever and tempo increase, and more drinks are poured and downed in sips and gulps. Conversation touches on everything from politics and business to the latest scandal.

As the sun starts to set, someone will boldly suggest music. It will start out mellow but become louder and thumping. A few people will dance or sing. By late evening, voices are too loud, speech is slurred, movements are sloppy and some eyes are red. Laughter is too boisterous. Smiles are animated. There’s a lot of touching and rubbing. Here and there, there will be a small misunderstanding fuelled by inebriation. As night falls, everyone will stumble to their cars, the tears of earlier forgotten.

Next weekend it will be at another, packed place. New faces. Old faces. There’ll be long speeches and depressing hymns. There’ll be lots of food and drink, fanfare and activity as Batswana embrace the liberal idea of celebrating life instead of wallowing in sadness.

Keletso Thobega is a features and copywriter based in Botswana.

Botswana: Teaching through technology

I was born outside the small city of Francistown in Botswana. Both my parents were traders so I was familiar with the concept of entrepreneurship from a young age. Like most people of their generation, my parents had never seen the inside the classroom. The only homework they knew was their family but they worked hard to ensure that we all attended school and made our way to university.

My education – from the level of primary public school to university – was sponsored by the government of Botswana. I gained my academic independence and acquired skills that allowed me to prosper in my fields. This journey included studying in  Botswana, South Africa and Germany, which is where I gained my passion for education and social entrepreneurship. Fast forward a couple of gruelling years in the private sector. I published three books and spoke publicly on education, poverty reduction, HIV and Aids, corporate social investment and medical tourism for healthcare in Botswana.

I then founded Digital Computer Labs, an initiative to set up state-of-the-art computer labs across the country to improve students’ education. It’s no secret that technology is indispensable to education. Materials accessible through the web increase students’ exposure to real world communication, motivate them to achieve more and –  the list goes on and on.

Students in a computer lab at Ngwana Enterprises in Francistown, Botswana. (Pic: Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere)
Students in a computer lab at Ngwana Enterprises in Francistown, Botswana. (Pic: Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere)

This project is not without challenges. Technology is shifting fast, therefore we must choose platforms and solutions that can actually work with different devices and in different scenarios. We in Africa don’t seem to appreciate or understand how this will change the education landscape and empower students and teachers.

None of us can stop the outburst of technology, rather we need to embrace it so we can have a better education system relevant to 21st century students.

I am doing my part to ensure that students in Botswana – in schools in both urban and rural areas –  have access to a computer with internet connectivity. But to effectively utilise the power of technology for learning, we need flexible yet robust infrastructure for data communications. We require very strong wireless networks which will have the ability to simultaneously handle communication streams  with hundreds of devices.  And since content and exercises will be more and more in digital format, the platform selected must have the capability of being accessed by the teacher and the student, from their own home through an internet connection.

I have my work cut out for me but I am confident that we will get there.

Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere is the CEO and founder of Ngwana Enterprises. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.


Botswana’s president clawed by cheetah

Botswana’s President Ian Khama has received two stitches in his face after being clawed by a cheetah, a government spokesperson said on Monday.

The incident occurred at a Botswana Defence Force barracks last week, Jeff Ramsay told AFP.

“He was scratched by a cheetah last week but not really attacked per se,” Ramsay said.

The cheetah was being fed in an enclosure close to where Khama was standing, became excited and somehow managed to get its claw across the president’s face.

Khama (60) was not admitted to hospital, but did receive treatment.

He was seen last week with a plaster on his face.

(Pic: AFP)
(Pic: AFP)

Ramsay said there were no security implications and added that because of the minor nature of the injuries the government had initially decided not to issue a public statement.

Cheetahs, the fastest land mammals, are one of the few large cats not to have fully retractable claws. Far from being razor sharp the claws are more akin to those of a dog than a lion.

A 2007 study by a conservation group found there were about 1 700 cheetah in Botswana, a country framed for wildlife and its national parks which take in swathes of the Kalahari desert and the Okavango Delta.

Khama, a former lieutenant general who was trained at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England and has been in power for five years, is known as something of an outdoorsman.

But he is better known for his patronage of conservation organisations rather than daredevil antics like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who was once photographed with a tiger. – AFP

Kalahari metalheads pursue a dream

In the remorseless Kalahari heat, leather is not the most obvious choice of attire. But to a dedicated band of Batswana metalheads, it’s the only way to dress. The country’s heavy metal scene, imported from neighbouring South Africa, may be niche but its fans are passionate about their style. Dressed from head to toe in black leather, sporting cowboy boots, hats and exaggerated props, they draw some curious looks on the dusty streets.

“People think that we are rough, evil creatures, but [metal] teaches us to be free with expression, to do things on our own,” said Vulture, the vocalist of the band Overthrust. He says there is a long way to go before the genre is considered mainstream, but that audiences have grown steadily in the past decade.

TKB, bassist for the band Skinflint, which is based in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, says they are becoming a more familiar sight. “The culture doesn’t accept heavy metal fans, the people all look at you, but nowadays even the young boys know that this person is a metalhead.”

Morgue Boss (Pic: Frank Marshall, courtesy of Rooke Gallery)
Dead Demon Rider 1 (Pic: Frank Marshall, courtesy of Rooke Gallery)

Botswana got its first heavy metal band, Metal Orizon, in the early 1990s. The group are still writing music and performing live today.

Their drummer, Selaelo, said the dress code was an important part of the act. “[Around] 1998 the unusual rock star outfit caused a lot of curiosity among hostile members of the public. This curiosity from non-rock lovers, I would say, brought more attention to the metalheads. Now that they had more attention, the rockers took [it] a step further by acting and posing in public. It was now more of a fashion, or the ‘in thing’ for those who loved the subculture.”

Selaelo added: “Some say our music is just noise and some perceive us as violent people … but that has not dampened our spirits. We will continue to show our worth in society and to follow our hearts for the love of metal.”

Metal Orizon are still pursuing their dream – to be able to make a living from their music.

There’s not much airplay for metal in Botswana, with only one radio show that broadcasts for 50 minutes a week on national radio. Fans keep up to date through word of mouth, swapping tapes and social networks.

Though attendance at concerts is small in comparison to the west, the scene has slowly built a steady fan base. To date, no western heavy metal act has performed in Botswana, and no Botswana metal act has performed outside the region.

The most popular band, by far, is Wrust, who have toured South Africa and played as a support act for the Brazilian heavyweights Sepultura. Wrust say they draw on western influences, with a local twist in the lyrics and delivery.

But vocalist Stux Daemon said traditional culture was harder to integrate. “You are going to try to use your surroundings to influence your music, your thoughts and your songwriting, but [Setswana culture] is not something we focus on,” he said.

Frank Marshall’s exhibition, Renegades, is currently on display at the Rooke Gallery in Johannesburg.  

This post was first published on the Guardian Africa Network

King of fong kong football

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would own a soccer team. But here I am at 29, possibly the world’s youngest team owner. And the most stressed in Botswana, if not the world. It’s no joke to run a team. Ask Jomo Sono, Patrice Motsepe and Roman Abramovich.

Of course I’m still waiting to become as rich and powerful as they are. My team is just a social soccer side playing in an informal league known round these parts as the “Sunday Times” because of when we play.

The Sunday Times “league” has taken Botswana by storm. Matches are organised mostly by word of mouth and the teams include a few old men, but the bulk are wild and badly behaved youngsters — some as young as 15.

My team — Industrial Super Stars, so named after the scrapyard area in Itekeng where the majority of our players live — is made up of disgruntled and uncontrollable alcoholics without any soccer skills to boast about. My bunch was rejected by other Sunday Times soccer clubs.

In my quest to be Motsepe, I took the opportunity to name and organise the team. But finding them before a match is more complicated, especially at the end of the month. After payday, the team owner has to endure moving from one drinking hole to another in search of his players.

One of the unique things about the Sunday Times soccer league is that the usual football rules and regulations are relaxed. So relaxed, most of them don’t apply. A player can be substituted and come back into play later, as many times as he likes. A referee might smoke a cigarette during the game. The referee can also be substituted if one team feels he is biased in favour of the opponents. When this happens, the ref is likely to express his disgust at the decision by donning the kit of the team that stood by him when he was subjected to insults.

Alcohol and dagga abound and the players use them with abandon. Because most players are unemployed — especially in my team — pints of Chibuku, a traditional brew, are a regular feature at the games.

These players don’t care if team “owners” and officials such as me are present when they take their dagga. They are very uncouth. They spew venom. They don’t want to be shouted at like professional coaches shout at their players. They threaten to decamp to another side and there are plenty to choose from at the bottom of the league barrel.

In the worst scenario they threaten to form their own team that will be run and controlled by them without being subjected to civil behaviour lectures. The most foul-mouthed will tell you to your face that you don’t own them and that just because you occasionally buy them pints of Chibuku, this doesn’t make you better than them.

I have been told to go and write shit in the papers whenever I called some of my players to order. “Just because you write for newspapers doesn’t mean you can lecture to us about good behaviour,” I have been told countless times.

It is a bit unfair because other football team owners, such as Sono, Motsepe and Abramovich, are not subjected to this treatment. By the same token, just because my bank balance hovers close to zero most of the time, it doesn’t mean I should be subjected to this sort of treatment, I mutter to myself.

Although I’m not given the respect that I deserve, the team is happy to use the water in my house to wash the kit. I’m also the custodian of the kit, which is a raw deal. Come half time nobody listens to the coach. They don’t want team talk. They just want alcohol and that foul-smelling green stuff.

One of the Industrial Super Stars officials is my younger brother. One recent Sunday we Mosikares were accused of having hijacked the team.

Drunken debates ensued. I came up with the idea of forming a rival team to the neighbouring Itekeng Soccer Club when I realised that the majority of my present players were not being given a chance to prove themselves.

To explain the set-up for a South African audience, let’s put it this way: if Industrial Super Stars were a political party it would be Cope; Itekeng Soccer Club would be the ANC.

My breakaway plan was hatched in the middle of the month when I did not have money to buy a team kit. So one of my cousins — among those now accusing me and my brother of hijacking control — went and bought the kit at one of the Chinese shops in town. It is a “fong kong” kit costing less than P200 (about R250).

I wanted to refund him so that I could be left to run my Industrial Super Stars the way I liked, but he refused. My cousin can be difficult to deal with. On the field he will agree to be substituted only when he wants to smoke a cigarette.

In our way my team is like a close-knit family. And like all families, we bicker. It’s just as well we hardly ever win any matches — when we do, the boys drink until they drop.

Oarabile Mosikare is a reporter for Mmegi and Monitor newspapers. He lives in Francistown, Botswana. This post was first published in the M&G newspaper.