If you take a walk down Haskins Street, adjacent to the Francistown train station, in the heart of the city of Francistown, you would feel as if though you were in “little Zimbabwe.” Just like a walk in oriental plaza would make you feel as if though you are in “little China.”
Due to the heavy influence and interaction with Zimbabweans, a lot of Batswana in Francistown have adopted a passion for Zimbabwean arts and culture. You can tell from walking around Francis Avenue.
Many Zimbabweans escape the harsh political and economic landscape of their native country and flood to Botswana to try and eke out a living. Amongst the many Zimbabwean cross border traders who are flocked near the Francistown train station, are hawkers and street vendors, who sell original CD’s and DVD’s of various Zimbabwean artists.
One such street trader, Crispin Maketo, who comes all the way from Gokwe in Mashonaland, says he started selling traditional Zimbabwean music in Botswana in 2003 and ever since then there has been a sudden high demand for his merchandise.
“A lot of Batswana especially Bakalanga from Francistown and surrounding areas seem to have grown a sudden interest and passion for Zimbabwean music,” says Maketo.
He says it’s because the language barrier is also quite similar to the Ndebele and Shona dialects.
“Zimbabwean musicians of the likes of Ndolwane super sounds have now influenced the likes of Maitengwe super sounds,” says one Nchidzi Banothamani, of Maitengwe village near the Zimbabwean border. Nchidzi also mentioned that Zimbabweans are also gifted when it comes to playing both the electric and acoustic guitar.
Amongst the favourite Zimbabwean artists popular in Botswana are the likes of Thomas Mapfumo, Andy Brown, Simon Chimbetu, Oliver Mtukudzi, Leonard Dembo and Barura Express, Tongai Moyo and Utakataka Express, Nicholas Zachariah and Khiama Boys, Alick Macheso and Orchestra Mberikwazvo, including System Tazvida and Chesazesa challengers. One such popular Zimbabwean song which plays almost everywhere in Francistown is one by System Tazvida and Chesazesa Challengers called ‘ano dyiwa haataure manyepa.’
The song describes how a man loses his money to a girl who doesn’t love him, but fails to let anybody know about how much he’s spent on her.
The Zimbabwe influence extends to the dressing and dancing.
Interestingly, the Borrow dale dance which originates from the upmarket suburbs of Borrow dale Brooke in the Zimbabwean capital city of Harare is now popularly known as ‘Stonkana’ in Botswana.
Comfort Exotic Ramatebele, a radio personality and sports activist, says that Zimbabwean music “is like chicken and rice.”
Big Fish, as he is popularly known, plays songs on his popular radio show- dubbed ‘Gumba Fire with Big Fish’. The show which specialises in Zimbabwean and old school disco music is widely popular across the country and will be back soon on radio.