Sunday, March 26, 2023

The power and the gory: Gaborone Motor bikers club

Gaborone Socialite Abobakwe Kgwarae checked out like a fully patched biker. A convoy of 150 white shirts and black leather waste coats on motorbikes towed his funeral procession in a scene that harked back to the 2008 funeral of Gerard Tobin, a Hells Angels biker who was shot dead in a military style operation by members of the rival Outlaws biker gang.  

Thousands of bikers from all over the world in leather waste coats escorted Tobin’s funeral procession from Hells Angels Clubhouse in Bethnal Green, London.

Abobakwe Kgwarae was the president of the 25 member Three Chiefs Motorcycle Club, a local bike gang so benign it seems mischievous to mention it in the same breath with the notorious Hells Angels. 

A series of events leading to Kgwarae’s murder have however conspired to project the Three Chiefs Motorcycle Club as a miniature Hells Angels gang. Kgwarae was a key witness in the murder of another biker and Chief Executive Officer of Fairground Holdings, Mike Montshiwa.

A few weeks before Kgwarae’s body was found in a pool of his blood, Montshiwa was shot dead Hells Angels style outside his house in Block Six. Police investigating Montshiwa’s death traced the blood trail to his lawyer, Modise David who is also a biker running a private law practice in Gaborone.

Bikers have been known for their inflated egos, violence and a penchant for danger. For some time, the Botswana’s bikers club was only associated with inflated ego, probably because of the moneyed high-flyers it attracted. With the recent blood-letting in the motor cycle circuit, Botswana’s biker gang now seems to be living up to the gory Hollywood stereotype. 
 “Outlaw biker clubs are a one-stop shop when you’re looking for things in life geared toward stroking your own ego. There’s the thrill that comes when one flirts with danger. There’s the adrenaline rush of being affiliated with something notorious …There’s the cat and mouse game you play with the traffic cops. Every time a news story runs about law enforcement mobilizing in preparation for a visit from the club, you can’t help but feel like a movie star. There’s the satisfaction of being either respected by people or feared by them. Both reactions are equally acceptable. And most common attraction to the life ÔÇôA bond almost stronger than that of blood,  and a dedication to each other’s lives that most people would never understand. Your problem is everyone’s problem, and theirs are yours,” one American biker summed up the life. 

The Three Chief motorcycle Club however insists they are just harmless biker enthusiasts. Tebogo Ferguson is the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the club and one of the only five women in the club. She dismisses the stereotypes associated with the hobby. “Our association is inspired mainly by the love for riding and motorcycles,” she tells Lifestyle. 

Ferguson says their coming together to form a club was purely driven by the spirit of fellowship. “It helps to build love and skills for what you do when you are part of a group because everyone brings with them some degree of expertise.” The Three Chiefs club was formed just two years ago in 2014 and was officially registered as a society in 2015. 

She says the club undertakes various charitable activities like fundraising and donating to the less fortunate. One of the fundraising activities includes providing escort for various events including weddings, at a fee. Members also pay an annual membership fee. “She says they have their own calendar of activities that include attending biker rallies locally and across the boarders as well as fun rides across the country. “Cross country rides are the best because we get to learn more about Botswana and various places through our coordinated rides. We want to explore every corner of Botswana.” They also do occasional ‘breakfast’ rides on weekends where they choose a particular place to go have breakfast together as a club. The motorcycle rallies are gatherings of motorcycle enthusiasts that involve mass rides and engaging in other fun activities. The activities often include burnouts, bike contests, stunts, music etc.   

Ferguson insists contrary to public perception local bikers clubs are all about doing good and enjoying their hobby in the most responsible and legal manner. “Biking clubs here and their lifestyles are not what some people make of them. The hooliganism perception stems from countries like the US where there have been reported cases of such violence,” Ferguson says, adding, “We are far from being associated with rebellion.” Bikers have also been known for their recklessness and love for speed on the road. 

“That is not the case,” Ferguson differs, “We are constantly trying to emphasize the importance of road safety. Bikers’ accidents are predominantly caused by lack of vigilance by motor vehicle drivers.” She says safety gear is also of paramount importance. “We prohibit members to ride without proper safety gear.”

Ferguson says the motorcycling culture is growing rapidly in Botswana and mentions at least half a dozen other clubs she knows of. “Every club has its own colour and logo that it identifies with.” She describes riding a motorcycle as the best experience ever. “There is so much thrill to it the adrenalin in unbelievable,” she enthuses. “No amount of words can do justice to the experience.” She says she would ride her Harley Davidson 883 cruiser everywhere she goes if it was convenient. Ferguson is one of the increasing numbers of women challenging gender stereotypes and engaging in male dominated activities. She fell in love with bikes while she was still a teenager at junior school. She would ride pillion with her uncle before eventually learning how to ride a bike herself. It was while at riding school that she met some of the would-be club members of The Three Chiefs. She bought her first bike in 2013. Being a biker is not a cheap hobby but Ferguson believes if one has the passion, money should not be an issue.


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