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A Place to call Home

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The high school social studies textbooks I read taught that a Motswana has three homes: legae (a house in a village), moraka (grazing post) and masimo (lands to till).

Gaborone City and other urban centres are places where people go to find work – not to live, and certainly not to set down roots.

Having spent one’s most productive years toiling to earn a salary, clinging on to the permanent and pensionable status, when retirement age arrives, a Motswana returns home to the village–to wait for death.

If you are like Rre Moeng, of Tsalanang, you joke about this inevitability and say you are returning home to finally ‘eat life’.

Perhaps there was a time when this triangular utopia was possible. It no longer is.

Spending twenty years waiting to be allocated a plot should disabuse you of this fantasy.

It is best not to get into the matter of who actually owns land. Is it the ones who are so rooted to this place that they can call no other place home? Or is it in the hands of those who can flit away to faraway lands when times get tough? Like one impostor once said: ‘I use my Botswana passport when it is convenient.”

Claiming Gaborone City as one’s ‘home’ is thought, by some, to be saying you are unsure of your heritage, denying your roots, maybe even ashamed of where you really come from. “No one comes from Gaborone.”

Start with learning how to pronounce the name of this place. At least. Feel the ‘G’ scratch the back of your palate, add ‘ahhhhh’ like a doctor asks you to do.

Sound ‘bo’ like book, the ‘ro’ too, almost. Remove the ‘t’ from nit to end. Ga-bo-ro-ne. Gaberones was discarded in 1969, although some still refer to it as such.

And, please, please. She was never ever Gabarone. These relics of the colonial master have no place here.

The name means ‘not unfitting’; artistically stretched, it says ‘it is well’. You see, Gaborone’s name speaks, if you care to listen.

Call it Gabz, if brevity is your thing. Mageba, will do too, or GC (since 1986) when Gaborone added city to its name.

Some say this city has no face, bears no distinguishing features, hides no birthmark, wears no tattoo, has no identity and lacks soul.

Let us set off from where Independence Avenue begins, traveling east to cut across White City and her neighbours.

Once a source of labour for Gaborone’s growing construction industry, White City mushroomed into a collection of tiny two-roomed structures painted white.

Dikhetene (Place of Curtains), a Potemkin village, was drawn, curtain-like, around it because keeping up appearances matters–especially when foreign dignitaries visit.

But, fun was had in that place. Los-My-Cheri was around there somewhere.

Along the way, I count six churches (there could very well be more). One can only imagine the clash if they were to ring their bells simultaneously.

You cannot miss the Catholic Cathedral on the corner of Independence Avenue and Queen’s Road.

It stands proud and tallest; its steeple visible, as if it points the way to heaven.

Diagonally across from the cathedral is the Civic Centre, previously called Town Hall.

It is said that from the office of the Mayor of Gaborone one could see clear across the Main Mall right to Parliament.

That once clear view has been obscured by new structures. Old buildings that held cherished memories have been razed to the ground, replaced with modern structures—some would argue that they are ugly.

Fortunately, the National Museum and Art Gallery is still standing; within its walls snippets of the history of Botswana’s people is told.

Continuing down Independence Avenue, we leave behind The Mall commercial area and re-enter a residential area, albeit a different type, nicknamed ‘Beware of the Dog’, in Setswana ‘Tshaba Ntsa’.

High walls, remote controlled gates and security company vans are common features in this suburb.

Tucked in that area stands the State House, home of Botswana’s President. Once upon a time it was possible to walk past it.
No more.

But, let us head back to The Mall, to the home affairs and labour office where national identification cards are issued.

I wonder where the people filling the room call home. A variety of languages is spoken: guttural, heavy, light, flowery – none of these are Setswana or Setswana-like.

Two teenagers converse in spoken-through-the-nose-English. A Chinese couple walks into the offices and I am reminded of a Chinese friend who runs a takeaway.

She said she wanted to move away from the White City area. ‘Not safe now. Too many foreigners,’ she whispered.I smile.

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DPP moves closer to recovering P60 million

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The Directorate of Public Prosecutions moved another step closer to recovering the government’s P60 million from Basis Points Capital LTD when it closed its final submissions on Tuesday.

The DPP has made an application for Civil Forfeiture Order against property belonging to persons implicated in criminal proceedings in the P250 million National Petroleum Fund scam that is before the courts.

Making his final submissions, Ernest Mosate responded to arguments raised by the lawyers for the defendants saying that they were wrong to think that the DPP has no right to raise the issue of a fraudulent contract between DIS and Basis Points Capital LTD in their Replying Affidavit.

He said they had no intention to make the issue part of their application for the order, but the respondents raised it in their answering affidavits.

“Our Replying Affidavit brought evidence to demonstrate that the contract does not exist, it is a fraudulent document and that is why it cannot be the basis for the eating of 60 million Pula and for the manner in which it was eaten,” Mosate argued.

Basis Points Capital is linked to Bakang Seretse who is implicated in the 250 million NPF case that is still pending before the courts of law.

Mosate said that the fraudulent contract came into being between March and July 2016 and a total of P60 million was transferred to Basis Points Capital bank accounts at Stanbic Bank and Bank Gaborone between July and December of the same year.

He added that fraudulent signatures, fraudulent correspondence, and ghost employees of DIS were used in the scam hence the urgent need to recover the funds.

This, he said, was confirmed by DIS and ministry officials who have disowned the signatures that appear in agreement documents.

Earlier, the defendants called for government officials to take to the witness stand and be subjected to cross examination in respect to the contents of their affidavits.

Mosate said that the rules of the High Court Act and Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act (PICA) prescribe how forfeiture proceedings should be conducted – “they should be conducted speedily and expeditiously”.

He said there was no need for a full trial but the judge had the discretion to call some witnesses to clarify their averments.

The DPP further said that the company did not procure oil as purported in the fraudulent contract but instead, the funds were used in acquisition of luxurious vehicles and acquisition of plots which are to be forfeited.

Some of the vehicles under the DPP’s radar are a couple of Ford Maceratti, Mercedes Benz luxury vehicles and developed plots.

Meanwhile, Justice OmphemetseMotumise has postponed the matter to end of July when he will pass judgment.

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Court dismisses application for case withdrawal

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Industrial Court Judge President, Tebogo Maruping, has turned down an application for a withdrawal in a marathon case between former Wildlife Ranger, Thatayaone Lexicon Mpatane and his former employer Department of Wildlife & National Parks.

In a brief letter dated 10th March, the Registrar of the Industrial Court, Anna Mphethe writes that: “I’m directed by by the Honourable Judge President who’s seized with this matter to inform you that this has been concluded and is currently awaiting judgement and therefore your application for withdrawal will not be entertained.”

A bemused Mpatane told The Voice that he was shocked that the Judge President has rejected his intention to withdraw the matter. “In our correspondences last year, whenever I inquired about the case, I was always given the impression that the Judge President had a backlog of cases from as far back as 2017 and mine was number 50 out of about 51 cases,” he said.

Mpatane referred The Voice to a correspondence from the Court written on 20th December 2019 in response to his inquiry written on 11th November 2019.

In the letter written by Bakang Tshipinare on behalf of the Registrar, the Judge President states that the principle of first in, last out is applied when cases are adjudicated before court. “Your matter will hence be dealt with, once the preceding cases are concluded. We’ll hence keep yourself updated on the estimated time frames during the year 2020,” reads part of the letter.

In court documents seen by this publication, Mpatane wrote his case withdrawal letter on 3rd February and requested a prompt meeting with the bench clerk to inspect the file.

However according to Mpatane while the court provided him with the documents the one he needed the most was conspicuously missing. “The court order confirming that I withdrew the matter was not among the documents and when I inquired further I was told the Judge President had refused to write the order asserting that he had already heard the case and would write judgement,” he said.

The former ranger told The Voice last week that he needed the material to register the matter with the High Court to seek for additional reliefs which the Industrial Court cannot grant.

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