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To Read Again

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‘Close that door. Please.’

A door banged shut. Sethunya returned her focus to the book she was reading, flipped back a few pages to find her place, but just as soon as she had found it she heard a door open again.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember something she had read about staying calm. She instructed herself to shut out the sound of the door’s creaking hinges as a breeze nudged it almost-closed, and then back open again.

But when the door bounced against the doorframe and creaked open once more, it set off a pounding in her head.

She could not hold herself. ‘Kgaola mogatla!’

A stifled giggle. Quick footsteps. A door closed.

All festive season long, she had repeated other instructions, automaton-like: ‘fill the ice tray before putting it in the freezer; don’t leave the tap dripping.’

The last Sunday of the year, she attended the all-day church service but as soon as she had arrived home she felt the angst building at the sight of the house lit up like a night train.

‘Why the bloody hell are all the lights on?’ She had immediately felt remorseful. Not after a whole day spent in prayer.

When the kitchen door opened for the fifth time, she did not speak. She breathed in deeply, then out again.

She got up from where she sat under the morula tree, whose sprawling branches created shade from the sun.

She had brought the sapling with her when she was transplanted from her mother’s home to her husband’s house with instructions to create a home of her own.

As she closed the kitchen door, she thought back to when she was a fresh newlywed, summoned by her aunts and uncles, and her husband’s aunts and uncles, who had gathered to hear her explain why the village was whispering that she was threatening to leave her new home.

Even in her own head it had sounded petty to include reasons like a door left open, a tap left dripping, empty ice trays, as evidence for why she could no longer bear to stay. No.

Not when other wives told stories of house salaries being drunk at the local shebeen, black and blue eyes and such.

How could she confess that she was afraid of the recurring dream that denied her sleep?

That she feared she was becoming her father’s sister, the one whose mouth looked like she was sucking on a lemon.

In the years that had gone by, she had stooped to pick up stray toys in the passage.

She stopped complaining about the toothpaste cap discarded on the rumpled bathroom mat.

She combed out the strands of hair left entangled in the brush, drained forgotten dirty bathwater.

Specks of coffee dirtying the white sugar no longer infuriated her, nor did cigarette butts tossed into the vegetable patch.

She collected them all to deposit in the bin, together with the almost-full beer cans forgotten on the armrest of the sofa.

She Doom-sprayed the cockroach scurrying across the dishes left to overnight in a sink almost overflowing because of a tap not shut tight.

She hid her favourite chocolate in her handbag, where no one could find it.

She stayed aloof from the perennial flow of strangers in and out of the house.

She measured her life in anniversaries, each year commemorated with a lavish celebration attended by friends and relatives.

Their smiling faces filled her photo albums. And each day concertinaed into the next day, the next day into the next.

Until one morning, she decided. Despite that warning of doom years ago shared by her father’s sister at the dawn of her new life: that the sun would surely set in the east if she ever left her new home, Sethunya folded a few clothes and book into the tiny suitcase she had arrived with that morning so long ago.
She left.

In the morning after that recurring dream, she woke to find herself in a strange room.

She rushed out of bed, to fling open the windows of the room and gaze at the morning sky.

In the east, the sun was rising. She remembered then and smiled.

Then she made herself comfortable on the unfamiliar bed, pulled out her book from her bag and began to read from page one.

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An Eye for What?

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Sunday. Almost noon in Gaborone. From the pulpit, Pastor Godwill’s beady eyes follow his most-trusted foot soldiers lug bags of tithes behind a curtain where the money counting takes place.

With such a generous flock, he will move the church out of the tent into a proper building before Easter.

He will buy a house, then a jet. He raises his hands and sways to the rhythm of the closing hymn.

The church goers dissect the homily and sing the pastor’s praises as they file into the sunlight: “Oh, God! Daddy was on point today.” “May he stay blessed.” “Halleluja, Pastor.” “Amen, Pastor.”

No one notices a young man who has been skulking around the parking lot. He sidles up to a gleaming, new, black SUV.

Big lettering on the side proclaims ‘The Church of New Life’.

It belongs to the pastor—a Christmas gift from a recently-born again member.

He peers inside. Bibles, prayer books. More Bibles. The big money briefcase is not there.

He continues to pad, cat-like, around the bumper-to-bonnet filled parking lot. In another car he spies a woman’s handbag lodged under the driver’s seat. A purse peeps out.

The young man steals a quick look around him but sees someone approaching, so he moves on to another car.

He tests the driver’s door. It is locked, but the cellphone in the storage compartment tempts him, and his time is running out.

He picks up a brick and hurls it at window, shattering the glass.

As the alarm rings, he slides his arm inside and pulls out the cellphone.

Weaving between the cars, he makes for the main gate. Someone shouts. “Legodu!” Again. “Legoooodu!” Louder the second time.
It’s like a siren screaming. The able-bodied give chase. Men, women and children emerge from their makeshift shops, from houses to join in.

“Legodu!”Dogs bark the word. Cats meow the word. Cows moo it. Goats bleat it.

The whole neighbourhood emerges to bear witness.

The young man flies towards the main road. If he can cross the highway, he will melt into the bush and then he will be out of reach, but cars and trucks speed up and down the road. He cannot get across, so he off-loads his loot.

But it is too late for him. A man with biceps the size of the thief’s calves grabs him by his waistband and slams him to pavement. The swelling crowd, cheers.

A slap, a kick, a pinch. Another man fetches a sjambok from his boot.

It whistles as it slices the air, cracks as it lands on the thieves back. Once. Twice. Again. Once more.

A woman who was walking to the Kombi stop cannot resist.

She tucks her Bible into her bag and tugs off her stilettoes. She whacks the thief. Punctuates her words with blow: “You.” Rap. “Little.” Rap. “Bastard.” Rap! Rap! Rap! “That’s for the one who stole my purse.” She stands back and gives way for a man to land his punch.

The cheers grow louder.

A woman driving past slows down to see what is happening. She cannot bear to watch.

She pulls off the road to speak into her phone. “They are going to beat him to death,” she reports.

“Please hurry.” Tears roll down her face.

By the time the police arrive, the young man is soaked in a red sea.

The men in blue-grey uniforms leap from their vehicle.

One of them charges through the crowd that refuses to part.

When he finally reaches the young man, it is to confirm that his life has been stolen.

And still, the crowd cheers.

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Deaf beauty queen calls for Setswana sign language

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The reigning Miss Deaf International Queen has called for the introduction of Setswana Sign Language in schools.

The 31-year-old Serowe-born beauty, Kemmonye Keraetswe brought the crown home last July after emerging victorious in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Keraetswe is adamant that introducing Setswana will help improve the academic performance of deaf students, which at the moment she admits is ‘dismal’.

“There is a need for Setswana Sign Language in schools. Right now we are only taught in American Sign Language and this hinders the communication between us and our parents,” she notes, communicating with Okavango Voice via Whatsapp.

“I am a Motswana but I can’t read or write in Setswana. My parents can only try to give me signs but sometimes they don’t understand when I use the sign language that I learnt in school because it is a bit complex,” continues the brainy beauty queen, who is currently employed at Maun Senior Secondary School as a Teaching Assistant for deaf students.

Keraetswe’s dream is to go to university but she keeps failing the entrance exam as American Sign Language has proved too complicated.

“It is rare for deaf students to pass Form Five. I am even lucky to be working,” adds the trail-blazing queen, who is no stranger to international success having been crowned 2nd Princess Miss Deaf Africa in 2016.

HONOR: Miss Deaf International award

As for her journey as Miss Deaf International, Keraetswe claims that locally she has not been given the same recognition or received as much support as other beauty queens.

“There are so many events happening in Maun but I have never been invited to any of them! I feel like they are discriminating against me but I am just like any of them, the only challenge is that I am hearing impaired,” she blasts.

Additionally, Keraetswe says organisers often refuse to let her take part in pageantries on account of her disability.

“Sometimes they don’t accept me but I am capable just like any other woman!”

To compound her feelings of isolation, she is also having problems with the Botswana Deaf Organisation.

As is the norm with beauty queens, part of Keraetswe’s reign includes overseeing a project.

She wants this to be an independent project as she strives to inspire the death community.

However, the Deaf Organisation insist they should be involved.

“We don’t have any independence. They want us to do everything collectively even business,” she laments.

In conclusion, Keraetswe urged the government to promote equality and work with the deaf community to improve their rights.

She further called for the creation of Non-Government Organisations that will advocate for the rights of the deaf.

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Bouncing back from disability to thrive

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WHEELCHAIR-BOUND WOMAN LAUNCHES FASHION LINE

At the age of 33, Mavis Mtonga is fast making a mark in the fashion world despite a car accident that left her paralysed in her lower body in 2013.

Re-living the traumatic moment, which nearly cut her life short, Mtonga, who hails from Zambia but has been living in Botswana for the past 18 years said she was on her way to Zambia when her family got involved in a car accident that drastically altered her life forever.

“I was with my father and aunt, taking my grandmother to Zambia when the accident occured 10 kilometres away from Nata. It all happened so fast yet it seemed like it was in slow motion. Our car had a tyre burst and overturned three times.”

she said as her voice trailed off, giving way to a deep breath followed by a long pause.

“And then I realized I could not feel the other part of my body just below the waist. I saw people surrounding us but I could not make up their faces, people were asking questions but at the time I could not understand what was really happening,” she said.

She was flown to Princess Marina Hospital and later with the assistance of Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund they were transferred to Bokamoso Private Hospital where they underwent surgeries.

HARDWORKING: Mtonga

Her aunt died from heavy loss of blood. “I was devastated.” She said.

However, the hardest thing for Mtonga was to accept that she was not going to be able to walk again.

“It was really difficult to accept that I was going to live the rest of my life on a wheelchair. I was trained on how to be independent on a wheel chair and miraculously I learned the skill in two weeks while others took more than that,” she said with a teary voice.

Before the accident Mtonga had already applied to study Fashion and Design at Arthur Portland School and her application was approved in 2016 so she started school in 2017.

“When I first came to class, the lecturers were apprehensive about my ability to cope in an environment full of sewing machines of different sizes but with their help I had to figure out a way to use those machines. I opted to use the small ones, which had a footer but I had to find a way to improvise by using my hands instead because my feet don’t work,” she explained.

To date, Mtonga has not only survived the car accident but she has also gone on to thrive in the fashion industry pushing her own brand in her own backyard.

“I have a year now in this industry and things are looking up for me. I have a few loyal clients who usually rock my designs and keep on coming back, which suggests that I am doing something right. I hope to grow and my vision is take my work overseas one day and live my dream of being a high flying fashion designer,” quipped the determined young woman.

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