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Tracing the ‘Ghetto’ origins


Nickname divides opinion in the second city

It is still not clear when, why or even how Francistown acquired its Ghetto nickname – a moniker that has stuck with the northern capital for many years now.

While ‘Ghetto’ resonates with the younger generation, who see it is a hip and fashionable, the label has become a source of discomfort to the city’s senior citizens.

The Ghetto sobriquet has even survived an ‘official banning’ by then President Ian Khama during the second city’s 120-year anniversary celebrations back in October 2017. Khama insisted the name was unsuitable for a vibrant city such as Francistown and urged residents to find a new pseudonym that better represents what the city stood for.

Four years later, Khama has gone but the name remains.

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Long before the former President made his feelings known, Kerekilwe Margaret Matenge, together with a group of like-minded women who have labeled themselves ‘The Federation’, has been tirelessly campaigning for ‘Ghetto’s’ downfall.

The retired senior citizen does little to hide her disgust at the use of the name ‘Ghetto’, which she blames for many of the city’s shortcomings.

“It is a cursed name, and one of the reasons, this city is not progressing,” states Matenge.

She notes ghettos are usually associated with lawlessness, poverty and a hopeless illiterate minority.

“Francistown used to be a beautiful city before it was burdened by this awful name. Now there’s no progress, it is a beaten down place with no progressive education and steady employment,” fires Matenge.

“Changing all the negativity endured by this city should come from us, first by stopping the use of the name Ghetto,” she adds.

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Matenge is not sure where the name originated but believes it could have come from Elvis Presley’s 1969 hit ‘In the Ghetto’.

“Maybe someone thought the name was hip,” she reasons with a puzzled shrug of the shoulder.

Former Tati Town Customary Court President, Margaret Mosojane, who’s also part of The Federation, said she still can’t put a finger on where the name originated.

“During our time we’d simply tell someone that we were heading to ‘Ku Turopo’ I have no idea where the name Ghetto came from,” admits Mosojane.

“People who use the name also have no answer as to why they refer to Francistown as a Ghetto. It’s a bad name and not a compliment to the city,” maintains Mosojane.

The respected elder says the name Ghetto came from the streets, caught fire, and has remained ever since.

Her sentiments were shared by former Mayor, Iqbal Ibrahim, who is similarly clueless as to how the handle caught on.

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“I once asked one person why they use the name and his response was that compared to Gaborone, Francistown is a ghetto. I, however, beg to differ. This is an upsetting name. Francistown is not a ghetto, it’s a city with good roads and highly educated people!” Ibrahim said, further adding more needs to be done to encourage young people to stop using the word.

However, the former Mayor and co will have their work cut out to convince the younger generation to ditch the name.

NOT HAPPY: MmaMosojane

Indeed, for 36-year-old rapper Apollo D (Monametsi Nkhukhu) the name Ghetto has a historical significance to Francistown.

“When we say Ghetto, we say it with affection and passion. There’s no negative connotation there. If you look at areas like Kgaphamadi, Somerset, Monarch and places that had names like Dark City, these were informal settlements. They were ghettos,” is the singer-songwriters eloquent response.

“There’s no need to be ashamed of the name Ghetto, even if Francistown has transitioned into a modern city. We’ve put power to the word and it has since lost is colloquial meaning!” Apollo concluded with gusto.

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