A few of decades ago no one would have had the guts to refer to Gaborone or any other urban area as their home town. Except for Lobatse and Francistown, everyone came from a village.
This is why when making a statement at a police station the question of which ward one comes from or who their chief is, is still asked. Anyone who claimed Gaborone as their home in those days risked being labelled as either mad or not being a real Motswana.
People had strong ties with their home villages no matter where they worked, how far and for how long they might have worked away from their home villages.
People saved money to build dream houses in villages, not in towns. Home towns and villages were where the heart was and everything that was important for families was done, held and celebrated. Ask anyone where they would be spending their Christmas, the answer would be “home of course”.
Depending on the season and amount of rainfall, visits would extend to cattle posts or at the lands. It was rumoured that some people who originated from the north even took their fridges along with them from towns to their home villages during Christmas. That way they would be able to enjoy the luxuries of the city in the tranquillity of the villages and comfort of rural areas.
Contract mine workers from Gauteng in South Africa were not be outdone. They would “put the cherry on top of the cake” by coming to their respective villages with their spoils from the golden city. In the same way our neighbours up north are notorious for when they drive past Gaborone to the country with overloaded vans, our local migrant workers would come with new “Humber” bicycles loaded with gumba gumbas at the back.
They would promptly connect PM 10 batteries to play their gumba gumbas or mprr fires that is amplifiers, as loud as they could. This would make them an instant hit in every village as they dee-jayed from one village to the next.
As soon as the holidays were over and the celebrities had returned to work, many young men in the village would be left harbouring ideas of following their role models to the mines. Indeed rural life was grand and bliss during Christmas. It is no wonder that everyone used to leave town during Christmas.
Coming to think of it, Thato Sikwane, aka DJ Fresh, somewhat still does the same thing whenever he comes to Botswana from South Africa, although with much more bling, class, pump and hype.
Towns used to become empty during Chistmas. The only people who remained in MaGeba or Gaborone, as it was fondly called then, were foreigners or families in which one of the parents might have not been a Motswana by descent.
The only “real” Batswana seen in Gaborone during Christmas back in the days were perhaps a few BaTlokwa. They lived just across the Notwane River only a walk away from the old Gaborone Village. However, it was only children who would walk all the way into the centre of town, which is basically Extension 10, 12 and 4. After singing and to show appreciation they would be given a Cent or two. By sunset, these children would gladly return home to Tlokweng jingling a couple of coins in their pockets.
The routine was also be very simple: After singing Christmas carols at the Trinity Church or the Roman Catholic Church in the Main Mall, the handful of folks remaining in town would immediately go back to their homes to enjoy the rest of Christmas in a westernised fashion. Apart from the nice food, pudding and cakes, there wouldn’t be much else to enjoy.
Music played by the rich folks in “Enyelane” or “Tshaba Ntsa”, as those areas on the nothern side of Gaborone were called, would be totally different from that played by contract miner DJs at the lands. The upper class folks from Tiger Kloof in Extension 2 had a knack for the likes of Jim Reeves, Mozart and the Sound of Music. This was the complete opposite to what was enjoyed by the middle class in Extension 10, 12 and 4 areas who preferred The Hurricanes, Mpharanyane and the Cannibals. Towards the south western townships of Bontleng, Extension 14, New Canada, New Stands and Zola, amplifiers would again be heard playing Moyo and Divera Ngwenya and as well as the famous Mahlathini and Mahotella Queens and Dark City sisters. They would play full blast so that everyone would be able to listen to the music. Shouts of ├®ncore would be heard often almost after every song that was in fashion then had played.
Where would the police be at that time? At the Canteen or at the Depot doing their own thing of course. In those days when cars were left unlocked and when all house keys were left under door mats and visitors were always be welcome. The police, who seemed to be on first name basis with everyone, didn’t have much on their hands like they do nowadays. Some of us, as young kids back then, even got a chance to ride on a police bike like when malome Seema once did. A certain Monyeki was said to be the fasted police cop. Perhaps Salim, the local Evil Caneval then, will be in a better position to tell us what type of a cop he was. The President must know who all these gentlemen were because he was once a traffic cop too.
They don’t make speed cops like they used to! Back then hard-core could be trusted with guns whilst police officers searched for their handcuffs to arrest them with. By the look of things, they don’t make criminals like they used to either. These days criminals mean business and wouldn’t hesitate to kill for a dime.
Happy Christmas and please don’t forget to give the police massive respect over the holidays!