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Down memory lane with the original ‘Moiplek’ shebeen queen

Mention the name Ten-Days anywhere in the second city and, more often than not, there’s an instant and unmistakable recognition.

It is a name countless Francistowners have come to know in the last seven decades, a brand that many who hold plum posts in air-conditioned offices refer to fondly.

An immensely popular figure in Francistown, Tendani Mathape is revered in Bluetown, the rundown location she has called home for much of her life.

Born 81 years ago, the sprightly grandmother is as fit as a fiddle, her strikingly youthful smile only betrayed by her closely cropped grey hair.

In 1953, as a 14-year-old Mathape started her primary education at African School in Francistown.

It was here as an energetic teenager that she proved her athletic prowess, excelling at both ball sports and track events.

Sadly, back then there was little chance of forging a living through sport and her talent eventually fizzled away.

One thing that stuck, however, was her childhood nickname.

“There was a teacher from South Africa, Mr Mazabathi who used to call me Ten Days, instead of Tendani. This name stuck to me like glue even after I completed school. The Zezurus in the area started calling me Mma-Ten-Days, now everyone calls me that,” she explains, her bright smile revealing an impressive set of white teeth.

In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Mathape notes that life in the 60s and 70s was not easy.

“Employment opportunities were limited. Most families survived through the sale of traditional beer. It was a source of income for almost everyone who could not find employment in the mines.”

Although it was illegal at the time, soon after finishing school Mathape started brewing and selling beer. She quickly established herself as a brewer of note, becoming an instant hit with customers.

“Remember that at the time, natives were not allowed to trade in alcohol. The business of selling beer was a reserve for white people who had opened a big beer hall in Sotoma, which is called Area W today. So I had a nicely decorated huge pot that I used to hide the brew from the troublesome police officers,” she says, laughing proudly at the memory.

The forced relocation of Sotoma residents by Witwatersrand Native Labour (WENELA) saw Mathape and her family resettling at Moiplek (present day Bluetown).

“The name changed to Bluetown as the population increased, but it used to be simply Moiplek. There were about four homesteads when we relocated here,” remembers Mathape, pausing to catch her breath before adding with a frustrated sigh, “Sadly I still don’t know what the name Bluetown means!”

The respected elder further told The Voice brewers had ‘a cat and mouse’ relationship with the police.

However, that changed with the intervention of Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) founder, Phillip Matante.

“We were now free to sell home-brewed alcohol,” she says, her eyes lighting up with nostalgia.

But as her business grew, the lure of profit and the ever-demanding customers forced Mathape to introduce western beer to her stock, which was still against the law.

Her reputation grew in the neighbourhood as imbibers got wind of a shebeen with a touch of the west.

So, just how did Mma-Ten Days manage to sell beer illegally for so many years without attracting the wrath of the law? Her answer is as honest as it is simple.

“The police were also my customers. Another advantage was my shebeen was very neat and I did not play loud music. Police officers who came here respected that and never troubled me. I ran a decent drinking place,” muses Mathape, abruptly switching from the past to the present and encouraging her old customers to get their drinks from legally established bars and bottle stores as she no longer trades in alcohol.

“Some people still come here to buy alcohol but I always turn them away. Some still don’t believe me and insist on opening the refrigerator which I gladly oblige,” she says amid fits of laughter.

“I’ve long passed that phase. I’m now a staunch member of PHD (Prophetic Healing and Deliverance) Ministries,” she concludes, proudly showing off her ‘miracle’ bracelets.

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