NORMAN RAMATSIPELE a former Botswana student in Mafeking talks Batswana’s student life there : The binge drinking, late nights, loud music and Bachelor of Alcohol (BA).
It’s three o’ clock in the morning. It is the thirtieth, thirty first or the first of the month. The place is Graceland Club or Club El Nino downtown Mafeking. The hall is packed to the rafters. A random spot check will give three over four to Batswana students and the other quarter will be locals (who came either as “body guards” or petty criminals.) “Yeah Manyelela o tsene” as they are wont to say. ( Manyelela is the student’s lingo for living allowance after the former Education attach├®’ in Pretoria.)
In this small community of Batswana students’ in Mafeking, “Manyelela” makes the world go round. In 2002 we went on strike demanding an increase in our living allowance. But even that did not stop up them from clubbing all night.
When clubs close you think the night is over, but of course you would be wrong. From the dark clubs we make a beeline to taverns like GaMmanamane, Scallo’s, Cathy’s or LeBerry’s and there the fun continues. At Scallo’s for a few Rands we can braai meat and have “papa”. At GaMmanamane we dig into a free serving of dumplings and chicken feet (But you have to be a regular). These two taverns are good for some of us who after drinking the clubs to a close have to crawl to another watering hole.
Even in our drunken stupor, we look out for each other. We are a close knit community. Sometimes I think it is the alcohol that unites us. Unlike here where patrons drink beer from 340ml cans, in Mafeking we buy 750ml bottles and if you are not given to sharing, the beer will turn warm before you down it all. Being heavy drinkers, we buy the 750ml’s in crates. The number of crates depends on the size of the group. A pair usually shares one crate between the two of them. Two pairs share two crates.
One Economics lecturer who had heard enough of Batswana student’s binge drinking said they only came to the university for BA. When pressed for an explanation, he said Batswana students came to the university to study for Bachelor of Alcohol.
Another local radio DJ said the way Batswana students drink was a slice of the Botswana lifestyle. He went on to say if you took a stone and threw it randomly in Botswana you would hit an alcoholic and if you were to do the same in South Africa you would hit a sportsman.
When we take our beer crates home with us, music would be played loudly. It’s strictly hip hop and a bit of House. When it comes to Hip Hop collection, we are far ahead of the game. There’s Tupac, Snoop Dogg, the Game, KRS-One, Ludacris and many others. If you are looking for the latest in Hip Hop then you would do well to check us first.
An of course the first thing we buy with our allowance is either a refrigerator or an expensive sound system. No wonder locals say if you want to know where Batswana students stay, follow the sound of blaring speakers.
Locals say before Batswana descended on Mafeking, it was a sleepy town. Its people went to bed with the chickens and had welcome mats on the door, but things have since changed. The streets are no longer safe, muggers are on the rampage and thugs are having a field day and the streets have been taken over by staggering youths holding bottles of lager. It is said that the reason there are so many muggings is that locals think any stranger is from “Persia” as they refer to us.