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Woman of courage

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Woman of courage

GBV survivor trail blazes the wheelchair basketball field

Malebogo Max Molefhe is a former Botswana Basketball national team Captain who was shot eight times by her boyfriend in 2009 and became crippled due to spinal injury.

The 39-year-old Manyana born sports woman is now an activist advocating for survivors of gender based violence and domestic abuse.

She has formed Malebogo Max Foundation aimed at developing strategies to end gender-based violence and offer supportive services that empower survivors.

The foundation also hosts the annual wheelchair basketball tournament.Last week Diamond Trading Company sponsored the Max Foundation with P463 000.

Woman of courage
BLESSED: Malebogo Max Molefhe (far right) receiving a cheque from DTCB MD , Sedireng Serumola (far left)

Voice Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with this gender based violence survivor about her experiences, the mandate of Malebogo Max Foundation and the wheelchair basketball tournament.

Q. What made you start this foundation?

A. Initially after my traumatic experience of violence, I used my story to motivate, educate and inspire individuals through voluntary public speaking engagements.

Little did I know the world was watching and that this was a powerful movement that would change my life?

After being awarded the International Woman of Courage award in Washington DC in 2017, I started gaining more recognition, which came with too many responsibilities.

This challenged me to profile my work and expand my outreach in serving my country better hence making the decision to legally register an NGO.

Q. What is the mandate of this foundation?

A. The Malebogo-Max Foundation Trust’s mandate is to raise the development potential of rural marginalised women and underprivileged girls aiming for gender equality and the eradication of Gender Based violence through empowering and mobilising towards their participation in decision making and enabling them to lead a self-sustained life.

Q. What can you say are some of your greatest achievements as the foundation?

A. The foundation continues to make strides in contributing to ending violence through various programmes that it runs and through working in collaboration with other stakeholders in the GBV and disability.

Moreover we have successfully hosted the Malebogo-Max wheelchair Basketball Tournament for three years now consecutively, which is aimed at advancing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in sports.

Q. What are some of your challenges in running your tournament?

A. The main challenge we face is the lack of preparedness of local teams and lack of developmental funds.

Teams struggle to maintain their participation in sports because of lack of financial support.

There are no proper basketball courts to accommodate persons with disabilities and because of other barriers such as the lack of access to public transport; it’s difficult to keep up with training.

In general PWDs face surmounted obstacles, which hinder their progress.

The lack of team funding adds to this misery.

Therefore to carry out a tournament of this magnitude, we need a lot of funding to accommodate the extra needs of PWDs.

I am glad DTCB has sponsored the tournament and part of the money will be used to but wheelchairs for players.

Q. This annual tournament has been taking place toward end of the year, what made you change the dates?

A. Originally it was aligned to the commemorative 16 days of Activism against GBV on women and children, which takes place every year starting from 25th November to 10th December.

This resonated well with the tournament concept.

Persons with disabilities are at greater odds of experiencing violence than their normal peers but are often excluded from programmes that address violence.

So in order to improve their knowledge and participation in GBV programmes we came up with the idea to use the power of sports to get people together under one platform and share messages that are aimed at zero tolerance to GBV also using the platform to advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities in sports and giving them the opportunity to explore their capabilities.

Q. Any plans of extending Wheel Chair basketball to other parts of the country?

A. Yes. We are currently reaching out and consulting with various Disabled Person’s Organisations to see how they too can partake in wheelchair basketball and build teams that can compete in future.

Q. What are some of your future plans with this tournament?

A. Some of the plans include conducting workshops or coaching clinics to educate wheelchair athletes about the laws and processes of playing this sport and building strong teams.

It is very important for us to see the tournament grow, we want to build athletes that can contend outside the country and eventually have an Allstars team that can even participate at the Paralympics.

Q. Apart from the tournament what else do you do as an activist to spread gender based violence awareness?

A. I do a lot of work, which is not limited to voluntary public speaking engagements in collaboration with other organisations.

I do a lot of corporate mentoring and empowerment for staff in prominent organisations in Botswana and I am often a guest speaker at various platforms, joint partnerships, Law Enforcement and high-level forums on gender-based violence and human trafficking.

I have sat in forums that brought together police commissioners, judges, and chief prosecutors from African countries to set the tone and advocate for victim support and a positive investigative environment.

Besides encouraging active participation in sports for people with disabilities while advocating for their inclusion, I also lead and conduct Spinal cord active rehabilitation camps annually in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and wellness as well as Active Rehabilitation Sweden and Poland.

Q. How has your situation changed your life in general?

A. It has taught me the power of acceptance.

I have learnt to accept my situation and allowing myself to grow from pain to strength.

It has also made me symbolic enough to inspire others who may be in situations of violence but not able to get out.

I know that my story is a powerful tool that continues to impact change hence I use my strengths and capabilities for a positive change.

I’m now empowered and have a positive outlook to life.

I have found my purpose and now living to fulfilling it and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

I am a woman of courage.

Q. How did you do it, how did you manage to move on with your life and survive stigma?

A. Surviving the attack was one of the most difficult and long-lasting experiences of my life.

Firstly, there was the trauma part.

I had to fight for bare survival only to undergo many years of recuperation, which included rehabilitation.

It was a painful time of my life, filled with confusion, misery and pain.

Secondly, there was the emotional and psychological part, I had regrets, how could somebody who apparently loved me try to take my life, how could I have failed to see the red flags, how could I take it and take it and forgive it, how could I adjust to a life in a wheelchair, how would I ever earn a living again, how could I be independent and how could I ever feel safe to be with a man again.

Lastly, there was the disability. Once you use a wheelchair people look at you differently, they see you as fragile, less able and maybe less important.

In addition, conducting the most normal tasks like my daily care requires assistance now, going to the clinic or continuing my education requires now specialized transport and accessibility of facilities.

Q. Why do you think it is still difficult to stop gender-based violence?

A. There are many factors that contribute to the rise of GBV and despite this rise in numbers there is lack of commitment from individuals to change behaviors.

We still fail to see the red flags of violence especially sexually related.

We fail to take accountability in terms of reporting incidents of violence.

Other contributors stem from the use of social media that exposes young girls to sex predators.

Women often report acts of violence then later withdraw charges making it difficult for police to prosecute perpetrators.

Laws and policies also need to be changed to protect victims and survivors of violence so that stringent measures can be taken.

Perpetrators of violence have too many rights that hinder them from being rehabilitated hence they roam the streets and continue to violate unsuspecting individuals.

Q. Last year you received the BNSC Chairman’s award, what did it mean to you?

A. That was totally unexpected. I felt extremely honoured and was lost for words.

Often times we do voluntary work without expecting anything in return then one day, you get recognised and awarded.

That was special and I was so excited that I was overcome with tears of joy.

I’m so grateful for the sterling contributions I made in advancing inclusion of people with disabilities in sports and so proud of myself.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

A. My biggest inspiration is my Mother.

She has an overwhelming willingness to give love.

She is courageous and patient.

I draw strength from her.

Q. What advice can you give to other people living with disabilities?

A. The usual simple quote, disability is not inability.

There’s so much power to these words.

There is so much to explore, there is always that silver lining.

There are endless possibilities, just dream on and try.

As long as you still have air in your lungs, nothing is impossible.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

A. It is my birthday this weekend.

I am turning a new leaf.

On Sunday I will be celebrating my 40th birthday.

It also marks the International Women’s day.

I feel exceptionally blessed to be celebrating with women across the world.

To this I say, happy Women’s day.

Let love and light lead!

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Entertainment

A superstar explodes

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A superstar explodes

Born Atlasaone Molemogi, ATI is one of the country’s most gifted singer-songwriters, blessed with a creativity and energy few can match when it comes to live shows.

Sadly, away from the music, the rapper’s turbulent personal life has been slightly less successful.

While he takes conspiracy theories around the dark world to a whole new level, ATI has been fighting demons of his own.

The ‘Khiring Khorong’ hit-maker is now a self-proclaimed recovering drug addict having checked himself into rehab in late 2018.

This week, the rapper invited Voice Entertainment’s SHARON MATHALA to his suburban home in Gaborone to speak about the latest controversies surrounding his career.

The Voice team arrive to find the flamboyant artist, complete with exfoliating face mask, cleaning his room.

Pleasantries are exchanged and the singer seems in high spirits.

Before the interview begins, however, Deputy Sheriffs and a lawyer turn up to slap ATI with summons.

He is in debt but is optimistic he will come back stronger.

In an emotional roller-coaster of an interview, ATI talks about sexual relations, drug abuse and the bitter fall out with his former manager that have led to recent rape allegations.

Q. Thank you for inviting us into your home, how have you been?

I have been good. I have been blessed.

Q. Why did you decide to speak out against your manager? Where you not afraid this would tarnish your brand?

Even more important is protecting the victims who are derailed into thinking that what they are told is A when it is actually B.

So this is more about the victims not me.

Q. But all of this allegations happened under your nose? Did you not notice anything?

I am very observant but with my manager it was like there was an energetic block.

He controlled everything around me.

Even with the people that I interacted with.

He understood my weakness and he played around that.

Q. Oh! What exactly do you mean by ‘he played around your weaknesses’?

I am one open person, I am an open book.

He knew how to play around that because I vested so much power into him.

All my relationships, he went behind my back and intimidated the people.

He had a hold on a lot of people I have tried to get into a relationship with.

Q. What exactly do you mean?

I will tell you something, I have never been in a relationship.

I have tried.

I have even tried to get into a relationship with money.

I did not understand the culture of a relationship and when I did my manager got in the way because you know people are not comfortable about their sexuality.

Q. Why?

I was dealing with abandonment issues.

I was too clingy with who I am trying to love that they don’t even have time to love me back.

My manager intimidated my partners about their sexuality.

This had been going on for too long until I decided that I should go to rehab.

Q. So you checked yourself into rehab, you were not talked into it by family?

Yes. I checked myself into rehab because nobody cared about me.

I looked at myself as worthless.

My level of self-esteem and confidence was so derailed to a point whereby I did not want to be seen.

It got so bad towards the end of last year.

I will tell you something, he painted a picture of a chaotic character.

Q. But trouble seems to follow you. Do you know this?

Yes. Yes I do.

Q. Why?

Most of the time it’s ‘purpose learnt’ it is not poor decision making.

Most of my chaos is orchestrated by people around me.

Even before the drugs I know they planned all of the bad things against me.

A lot of things have happened and were meant to happen to me.

Q. What do you mean?

The drug industry in Botswana is (….breathes heavily) I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to still be sane.

Q. When did the drugs start?

In 2015.

Q. What made you dependent on drugs?

I was not dependent on drugs.

I tried to escape the reality of pain.

The painful part was coming face to face with drastic measures afterwards.

I had to cut the cord with everyone I know and evaluate the relationships that surrounded me, from work to love relationships.

When I did this, I found out that most of my relationships were orchestrated with malice by the one person I gave enough power to destroy me.

Q. Please elaborate further and make it clearer for me, what do you mean by this?

Circumstances always turned around to make me seem crazy.

I started questioning my reality and during this time I did not want to talk to nobody.

I was literally down on my knees and I look back now and say I am lucky to be alive.

Q. Do you think the drugs played a big part in your problems?

I don’t blame anything or anyone.

I just believe things happened the way they were supposed to.

I will tell you I am the best version of myself right now.

If happiness was to be gauged from 1 to 10, I am at a 5.

Q. Have you ever been at 10?

No. I have never been on a 10 but it is my first time at 5, that I will tell you!

Q. What drug was it?

I would not want to say.

I will tell you though that it was a drug that made me calm. Is it important to know?

Q. Why were you missing shows?

I was not well.

I couldn’t.

I was mentally unstable.

Wa nkutlwa gore ka reng? (do you understand what I am saying?) Mental health is very important.

When they found out that I was on to what they were doing with all these rapes, they literally tried to make me go crazy!

Q. Did they buy the drugs for you?

No! I bought the drugs for myself.

I mean I was addicted, I still am but I am recovering, you know what I am saying.

I am recovering from a mental problem.

Q. But your fans did not know all of this.

They were screaming your name and you did not come.

That is the thing, that is what I am telling you that [screaming fans] it is just not enough.

I was losing my mind.

I mean if I missed a show because I broke my leg it would be easier to understand, right?

What would you rather lose, your mind or your leg? The mind is everything.

Q. Are you in debt?

I am still trying to pay off all that I owe especially from last year when there was a lot of chaos.

Just right now you saw that I got a summons but I don’t live life by sulking.

I take it with grace and I am going to move through this.

Q. If you could undo one thing, what would it be?

I would not change a thing.

I would not because the level of understanding, what I like and what I don’t like, has heightened right now.

I understand now what it is that can advance me from point A to point B and I do understand what manipulation is.

I have lots of knowledge right now that I would have not known if I had not gone through what you say is a negative space in my life.

I mean I have tried to commit suicide but I am still here.

Q. You attempted suicide?

What I mean is that I now understand what a child who says I am going through depression means on a personal level because I have been through that.

I now understand that it is not the drugs we should be fighting, the fight is to help one accept what one does not want to accept.

It is what I call healing the inner child.

Q. Any plans of having a family of your own in the future?

Depends on what you mean by family. I don’t know what family is.

Q. Children of your own?

Umm, NO!

Q. Do you have a financial advisor?

No but I have had a financial restrainer and that was my mom.

She used to co sign with me.

Q. Have you ever been broke?

I define poverty on a spiritual level.

I have been poor with money in my pockets.

That whole time of ‘Khiring Khiring Khorong’ what I did at the time was the most suicidal thing ever.

I kept myself busy as opposed to dealing with what I was going through.

Same as taking the drugs; I always felt guilty for taking drugs because I felt bad when taking drugs and then coming to have a conversation with you.

I knew that was not me. It ate at my spirit.

But all I want to do is do good.

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to?

Probably in the studio making music.

*ATI’s manager refused to comment on the allegations against him.

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Entertainment

We’re doomed: an MC’s covid-19 tears

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We're doomed: an MC's covid-19 tears

There’s not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in Botswana, but the effects of the CoronaVirus pandemic are already being felt by businesses and individuals alike.

The entertainment industry in particular has been the hardest hit, with night clubs and bars ordered to close, and no festivals allowed to take place in the foreseeable future.

For bar tenders, DJs, promoters and Masters of Ceremonies who’re mostly used to money coming in every weekend, this indefinite dry season spells doom.

“It is a nightmare,” said Dineo Keoreng, an upcoming MC and Events Promoter.

Known generally as MC Mis D.

The 31- year -old promoter is among the many individuals hard hit by the cancellations of events in the country and beyond borders.

“If you take a moment and think about the many bartenders, club DJs and people like myself who make money through events coordination and emceeing, you’ll realise just how much this COVID-19 has affected the industry,” she said.

“How are we going to pay rent? These bartenders have kids to feed,” she lamented.

The fast rising MC in Francistown says she had to watch helplessly as over five of her bookings came to naught.

“I was scheduled to MC the Organised Family Tour in Katimamulilo-Namibia in April, but it has since been postponed to July,” said Keoreng.

The energetic “hype lady” said she also had to postpone another event in Bulawayo slated for 18th April at BAC featuRing local DJs Cue and Cheng.

“This would have been the first ever event organised by Mis D Promotions under Keoreng Investments.

“I’m yet to set a new date for the Bulawayo gig. My worry however is that when this COVID-19 pandemic blows over, there’s going to be congestion. There’ll be too many events at the same time, and budgets would have doubled by then,” cried Keoreng.

Mis D however urged her colleagues in the industry to stand firm and use this time to refresh, hone their skills and observe all the health tips to help stop the virus from spreading.

“My focus right now is growing this brand. It’s a pity this virus struck just as I was about to venture into SADC, but I’m certain more opportunities will come,” she said.

Having emceed some of the biggest events such as Toropo Ya Muka, Goledzwa, TRL Soul Sundays, African Attire on Fleek, Orapa Spring Fest, Bulawayo Train Party and many others Mis D feels the time is right for her to take even bigger events, including corporates.

“I’ve worked with reputable companies such as Engen, Alexander Forbes, Mascom, KBL and recently with Star Lite in their promotion of their locally made Mayonnaise,” she said.

“So basically I’m the go to girl for almost everything. If you need promo-girls for your events I’ve got you covered,” added a giggly Mis D.

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