Old Naledi or Zola as the neighborhood is intimately called has over the years become a hub for all things pallet carpentry in Gaborone all thanks to a 15 month conviction of one man. Now in his 50s, Isaac Makwete told Lifestyle that in 2010 he came out of prison a much better man after picking up a skill that would later spare him, his mother and others in his community from the wrath of poverty. “Indeed I came out of jail a better person. Instead of being idle while serving my sentence I chose to learn how to use my hands. Carpentry and upholstery stole my heart and I decided to grab the learning opportunity I was granted to absorb as much training as I could,” said Makwete. Today he comfortably rakes in his bucks day after day. The prison sentence he says is nothing but a distant memory and of course a blessing in disguise. While spreading his entrepreneurial wings, Makwete became wise and passed his skill on to other men in Zola granting them too their own one way tickets out of poverty.
“When my prison caretakers learnt of the work I’m doing, the wardens and the prison bosses bought me equipment to grow my business. They just showed up one day and told me to make a shopping list. I was ecstatic!” he said. Makwete said from that day on he wiped any spec of doubt from his mind and grew the empire that he has today. “We agreed with the men I work with that anybody that wants to learn carpentry from us we will teach at no cost as we also were taught free of charge. Zola is now a vibrant entrepreneurial space as you can see,” he proudly said.
Any motorist that drives down the road leading past Gaborone dam can never miss the men as they craft their day away, ever busy intricately carving away at the recyclables turning them into amazing furniture. The days of sleeping on the floor through the first month of work before one accumulates enough money to buy a bed are over for many Batswana as P450.00 can now guarantee the perfect slumber. This to the struggling city dweller who often has hardly any cash to splurge on costly furniture is a nice development. The trend has rapidly snowballed beyond Gaborone reaching the city’s outskirts. It is bound to spread even further afield, after all besides being kind to the pocket the furniture is fashionable. It also has a rusty edge and appeals to the young professional who wants something modern and contemporary at the same time but affordable.
“Recycling is an advantage because we either get the material we use free of charge when retailers discard it or we purchase it for close to nothing,” Makwete said. Adding that his dream is to see a Zola in which no one is struggling. “I want every child that is raised in Zola to be proud of their neighborhood. I made my mother proud and proved to her and the world that prison should never be the end of the road. In fact prison can give one a chance at education that they might have never accessed had they never been,” he said. Makwate said he will continue to grow his legacy and hopes to end poverty in his community.