Gerald Estates – a melting pot for diverse tribes
by Obusitse Kologwe
Mention the name Gerald Estates and you would probably evoke images of an upmarket suburb.
Although the location came into being as a positive development to try and address the issue of squatters in Francistown, people in this location have a lot of ordeals to contend with. The location boasts of well tarred roads, street lights and busy roads bustling with life. But underlying all these developments is an agony of suffering, alienation, isolation and anger on the residents.
Gerald Estates was established in 2001 as a promised land for the squatters of Somerset West, Matjimenyenga, Kgaphamadi and coloured locations in Francistown. It was meant to give Francistown a facelift by eradicating the problem of squatters in the city. The dream of squatters was fulfilled as they were afforded decent SHHA houses from the then tattered and dehumanizing shacks. To solve the problem, government purchased a farm (Gerald Estates) to curb land shortage and provided them with land to build their homes.
Located 8km away from down town, Gerald Estates boasts a mixture of diverse tribes, though it is a predominantly Bakalanga location. One of the interesting features of Gerald is the Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education (FCTVE) which was opened in 2008.
The state of the art structure was jointly funded by the European Union (EU) and Botswana government. The institution bears a marvelous architecture design that leaves many travelers in awe because of its beauty.
The institution, established to provide vocational education to the youth is not utilised to full capacity due to shortage of lecturers. The Management at the school has always decried a problem of shortage of staff. Most of the lecturers at the institution are said to be eyeing greener pastures leading to a mass exodus of the skilled workforce.
The location also has a health facility which is also struggling to contain most of the patients due to its size. The facility is haunted by,among other things, over-crowding shortage of staff.
Most of the residents are forced to commute to the city centre to access health facilities.
In terms of crime, Gerald Estates Location is not as bad as most of the areas in Francistown such as Monarch location, Pelotelele, Extension and even Selepa.
Many people, especially those in the city centre working in the private and government sector prefer to rent houses in the location due to its tranquility and affordable rent as compared to some parts of the town.
Gerald Estates Police acting station commander, assistant Superintendent Pelontle Ditshweu, says crime in Gerald has reduced over the years due to a strong cooperation between the residents and Police.
“Crime in Gerald Estates used to be a serious issue but it has since declined due to our good cooperation with the residents. The cases that used to be rampant in Gerald included vandalism and electric copper cable theft, but that has since declined,” he said.
Although he could not produce statistics off the cuff, he confidently said crime in the area is controllable.
He is however concerned with increasing cases of vandalism on BHC houses. He said that there are some criminals who are vandalizing these houses by stealing power supply boxes and geysers.
“We are working around the clock to try and arrest these criminals. We would like to plead with the public to come forth and help us with information to arrest these culprits because the situation is slowly becoming a serious concern,” he said.
He said that the problem is worsened by the fact that most BHC houses in Gerald Estates are still unoccupied which then leads to such criminal activities. Ditshweu is hopeful that through their strong cooperation with the residents of Gerald Estates and the crime volunteers, the problem could be curbed.
“As the Police in Gerald, we are very happy with most of the residents because they are very active in helping us fight crime,” he added.
Gerald Estates location is divided into two wards which are Moselewapula and Kanana. Like any urbanized areas, Gerald location becomes vibrant during the weekends and holidays. The streets are always bustling with life especially during month end.
Although the place is regarded as a heaven by most of the people due to its tranquility, different challenges continue to haunt the location.
With a population of almost 10 000, the location does not have a Junior Secondary School let alone a private school. Children in the location have to commute to other Junior Secondary Schools in Francistown like Montsamaisa and Gold Mine Junior Secondary Schools.
The situation is so bad that parents have been up in arms against the City Council for failing to convince government to build at least a single secondary school for their children. Some children are forced to walk long distances from the location to town while others resort to alcoholism, drugs and other illicit activities.
“We have long pleaded with the government for a Junior Secondary School and it seems our pleas are falling on deaf ears. For parents who cannot afford to pay taxi fees for their children, the children are forced to walk to schools in town which affects their studies because these schools are far. Lack of a Junior Secondary School is very serious problem because it is impacting on our children’s education,” says Gwerero Pasina, a resident of the location.
Bushi Mfana, another resident, bemoaned the slow pace of developments at the location. He said that lack of facilities such as shops and a taxi rank in the location is making their lives miserable as they are forced to access such services in the far away city centre.
“We do not have facilities here, and it makes life expensive for residents because we are forced to go to town to buy groceries as well as do our banking. We have long raised this issue with the Francistown City Council, but nothing seems to materializing,” he added.
Lack of recreational facilities is another issue that the residents have to contend with. Due to lack shopping malls in the area, some tuck-shop owners have resorted to charging exorbitant prices to the extent that a loaf of bread costs P10 while a two litre cold drink is sold for P20.in the location to hike their prices extraordinarily taking advantage of the challenge
One can buy a loaf of bread for P10 and a 2 litres bottle of cool drink for P20.00.
The problem is expected to come to an end in the near future as tenders have already been floated for commercial plots following the completion of the servicing of idle land in the location recently.
One of the councilors at Gerald Estates, Johnson Moremi confirmed that the location has a lot of problems. He said that he is working day and night to make sure that these problems are solved.
“Gerald has a lot of problems, ranging from the delay in the allocation of plots, lack of a Junior Secondary School and no shopping facilities as you can see. Most of the people in this location are low income earners and it becomes difficult for them to access facilities in the city centre as they have to pay taxi fares to buy goods and access other services,” said.
Francistown City Mayor James Kgalajwe also acknowledged the numerous problems faced by Gerald Estates residents, especially lack of a secondary school. Kgalajwe promised to approach the Minister of Education and Skills Development and the Ministry of Lands and Housing over the allocation of land for construction of a junior secondary school.
Some of the positive developments in the location observed by the mayor include allocation of serviced land for the low income earners who have been allocated SHHA. The mayor was however quick to acknowledge the short supply of such plots given the huge back log of applicants.
“I am still going to push the Minister of Lands and Housing to try and address the issue of residential plots because it has been a concern to us as Francistown councilors for a very long time,” he says.
The mayor said the fact that the location is in dire need of a Junior Secondary School is disheartening since some students walk long distances to and fro school.
“Most of these students in Gerald Estates walk kilometers to schools such as Montsamaisa Junior Secondary School in town which is quite a distance. I intend to approach the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi on the issue of the junior secondary school because the concern has been with us for a long time,” Kgalajwe said.