Real Life in Gaborone, Botswana

Authentic people representing the greater number of us out there, the little nuts and bolts in the big wheel of what is the real life in Gaborone.

Gaborone being the capital city of Botswana, by default, becomes the central place for business in both governmental and private investments. All governmental ministries, major companies, non-governmental organizations, and private businesses are situated in Gaborone or started here. The new Central Business District with its high-rise office blocks is meant to attract businesses to take offices in the centre of the city. Big shopping malls, hospitals, both government and private, accommodations, and transport are all available.

This article, however, is not about Botswana nor Gaborone, the capital city. It is about Real Life in Gaborone, Botswana, from the perspective of those who live in the city. I set out to talk to some people, real people, about how they view their life and those around them as they go about their business every day in Gaborone.

My aim was to try and capture their feelings, their joys, challenges, hopes, and fears. So, here are three personal stories of people sharing about their life… real life in Gaborone.

Three Personal Stories of Real Life

When I set out to talk to these people about their perspective on real life in Gaborone, I did expect them to talk about their struggles, but that came out in all the conversations as the common denominator, albeit from different perspectives. It quickly dawned on me that though I know life’s challenges are real, as I have some of my own, but at this point in time, it seems the big problem everyone is facing is a lack of enough finances.  Someone is struggling to pay rent for a single room while another is looking to save a multi-million dollar home, and yet another needs to pay utilities and buy groceries. These are ordinary people that you will rub shoulders with in the streets as they go about the business of living.  I must also state here that I spoke to the people separately at different times and locations so no one knew I was talking to another person.

The three people I talked to all live within the same area of Gaborone called Broadhurst. They actually live on the same street, but their stories are different as are their circumstances in life. Yet, though the description of their situations sounds grim, I assure you that is not how it sounds when they talk. They laugh and joke even about the stuff that would make you have goosebumps just to think about going through an experience like they have gone through.  Sometimes, there is a tearful eye when the memory is painful, but it does not spill over. After a brief pause, a very slight shrugging of the shoulders and a sigh that speaks volumes, bravely, the smile is back; it breaks through shyly at first as if to say, ‘It hurts, but there is nothing we can do now. Life goes on…’ and the narration resumes. Again, to me, it seemed that what real life is like in Gaborone for all three boiled down to how their lives have evolved to bring them here at this moment in time.

She Dreams of Becoming an Entrepreneur

Tshegofatso Lepego Gaborone

The last born of 3 siblings, I was born in Gaborone in 1983. My elder sister lives in the United States and my brother and I live together.  Our father hailed from Rasesa Village, which is 24.5km north of Gaborone, while our mum came from Hukuntsi, in North Kalahari, 515.3km from Gaborone. Mom was a Mokgaladi, which means – one from Kalahari; her ancestors settled in the Kalahari area many years ago, but were not the first people of the Kalahari; the Basarwa were.

Life in Gaborone is tough when you are not working. My formal education stopped at form 5, but though I did not qualify for admission at university, I cannot say my situation is worse off than those university and college graduates who, after graduating, cannot find employment.

Mom passed away when I was in form 1 in 1999, and dad died just before I sat for my form 4 exams in 2002. My uncles were unwilling to pay for me to join tertiary institutions, so I was at home for four years. My boyfriend, whom I met in 2004, joined the police service soon after the birth of our first daughter in 2005. He encouraged me to join the service, which I did in 2007.  Both of us were special constables until he went for a police training course in 2009.  I left the service to join college to study sales, management and marketing. I did not want to leave work, but the schedule did not favour my school hours. It was a difficult choice because I needed the income, but I also did not want to lose the money I was paying as I was sponsoring myself.  As fate would have it, I could not write my finals because I did not have money for the exams. I had hoped to use my terminal benefits from the police service, but I was paid too late.  So, though I trained, I have no certificate to show I took the course. Life was very tough at the time, as I had given birth to another baby and I used my terminal benefits payments to support myself and the children.

Though my children’s father supports us financially, he is unable to do as much as he would like because he works far from Gaborone in Maun, the third largest city in Botswana. Situated in the northwest district, Maun is the tourist capital of our nation. Living so far away means he has two homes.  Since he is the firstborn, he helps his single mother and four siblings who are still in school. Fortunately, my brother and I do not pay rent; we live in the house our parents left us and share rental income from some rental rooms they left us.

I must say I am blessed because my children and I have our basic needs met.  However, I want to venture into business to augment our income. For now, we have formed a group of five youth, and we want to apply for a grant from the ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development for a horticultural project.  Once this project picks and I get good insight on how to run an entrepreneurial business based on agriculture, I would like to venture into hydroponic farming on my own.  I learnt about hydroponics and aquaponics from my other ‘mother,’ who is not from Botswana, and I hope maybe she will agree to work with me, though she says she is planning to return to her home country soon.

Plans are on the way for an April wedding. We had wanted to hold it in December, but money was not enough.  Then, there were difficulties with our families agreeing to meet, but now the two families have started negotiations.  It is as well for we just found out we are expecting a Valentine baby!  Our hopes and prayers are that all goes well.

He is Making Ends Meet

 

Brian M. Dialwa Gaborone

My family hails from Lesenepole Village at the foot of the Tswapong Hills in the central district. Born in 1963, I am the firstborn in a family of five. I lived in this village until I did my ‘O’ levels at Moeng College. Thereafter, I was sponsored by the Botswana Government to Moshi Co-Operative College in Moshi,Tanzania for a one-year certificate course in accounting. Upon returning to Botswana, I was posted as an inspector of co-operatives at the Department of Co-Operatives in Gaborone in 1985. I have lived in Gaborone from then, except for a three-year stint in the village of Serowe.

I held various other posts between 1985 and 2012, both in government and the private sector. Since during this period I was single, most of my income went to assist my parents in paying for the education of my siblings and also for their upkeep.

I met my wife while I was the Financial Manager at Botswana National Sports Commission.  We were married and we are blessed with three boys.  My boys have been educated in private schools for their primary education, but joined government secondary and tertiary schools after.  Our life in Gaborone has been lived in what is called middle class and it was easy to maintain that level of living when I was employed.  Since going on my own for the last six years, we have faced our share of challenges.  I am a managing partner at our accounting practice, McBrian Accounting, which we formed in 2012 with just one other partner.  Being an accounting firm, we have clients, but then when the economy is low, such as now when the country is in recession that has lasted quite a long time, they are unable to pay and so we also struggle to meet our obligations. An example of the struggles I am facing right now would be that I have built a good family house in Gaborone, but this year alone, the bank has put it up for auction three times because I am unable to service the loan as agreed. I cannot meet my loan repayments when there is no consistent income from our clients and hardly any new clients are coming.

To mitigate this problem, my wife and I are trying to turn our house into a private preschool so that it can pay itself in hopes of resuming loan payments before the recession ends and the bank is able to sell the house. We are banking on the premise that people will choose to pay for the education of their children over some luxuries. In Gaborone, it is also not easy for parents to get reliable babysitters, and we are hoping to bridge this gap.  As the recession ends and people get money in their hands, I hope we’ll grow our practice to be one of the most sought after in Gaborone.

In reality, looking at the real life in Gaborone for an average Motswana, it is difficult as the cost of living is high, the main reason being that Botswana is a landlocked country and arid. We are wholly dependent on goods from South Africa including food. For someone living in Gaborone, we buy everything and so one needs to have money.  It becomes hard if the money is not available, especially if one is having one or no stream of consistent income. I am blessed because my wife at least is employed, and though she works away from the city, her income helps us when the going gets tough so we do not sleep hungry. She also lives with our youngest child while I live with the older two.  My parents also are not wholly dependent on me as they do subsistence farming and raise livestock, which gives them some income. My siblings also help support them, so the burden is not too heavy on me.

She is Full of Life Experience

 

Molly G. Pheto Gaborone

My home village is Serowe, the village that gave Botswana its first president and his son the current fourth president, the Khamas.  I was born in November 1956. My father worked in the South African mines and my mother would do laundry jobs part-time in the white homes, but mainly she would be working on her farm.  My father had died earlier in 1979, but my mother just passed on this year (2017) in January.

My education only went up to standard 7. Even though my father was working in the mines, he was not supporting us maybe because of the stringent rules of the apartheid regime or other reasons, I am not sure.  Our mother struggled to educate us, but she could not pay for my secondary education, though I had obtained a “B” grade in my final primary school exam.

After my primary school, I was admitted for technical training at Serowe Textile School, where I learnt tapestry for two years.  After college, I got a job in a grocery shop and that is where I met my husband.  He worked with a building company and frequented the shop where I worked. We were married in 1986 and had a family of six children, 2 boys and 4 girls.  My husband passed away in 2000, and in 2012, I lost two of my children, the second born, a boy in July, and the third born in September, who was a girl.  This hit me and my other children very hard because they were not sick.  Nobody saw it coming. My son had a headache for about an hour and he just collapsed and died. My daughter complained of something moving in her chest and in a week she was gone. She left a daughter who is now 11 years and I am bringing her up.

My other children are grown up. One girl and the only boy are working, while the remaining girls are in university.  Two are working and two are still in university.  My last born daughter has a little girl of 4, whom I babysit.

Though I still have our matrimonial  home in Mochudi, approximately 25 Km from Gaborone to the north, I live in Gaborone so that I can take care of my girls and my grandchildren as they go to school. Up to 2014, I worked as a cook in the city council primary schools.  I left because my mother was too old and alone in Serowe.  I would alternate between taking care of her with my sister. This was also a very tough way to live as I would go with my youngest grandchild while coming once in awhile to check on the older girls and my other grandchild, who was already in school. After my mother’s passing this year, I now live in Gaborone full time.  I take part-time jobs like washing for other people in order to meet my financial needs. With the money my son gives me once in awhile, I am able to live in our single room with the two girls and two grandchildren.

I have tried many small businesses in the city, including cooking and selling the food by the construction sites and streets, but without capital to buy proper warmers and other things like disposable plates and cutlery, I do not fare well. In my opinion, the daily struggle to live in Gaborone that many like me face is real, but we soldier on as long as we are able to have something to eat, clothes to wear, and generally afford the necessities in life.

Things to Know About Botswana

Many things make Botswana the destination of choice, whether one is visiting as a tourist or seeking to become an investor.

Botswana, with its semi-arid climate, is situated in the southern region of Africa. Known for a working democracy that makes the country one of the most peaceful in Africa. Botswana is also one of the countries with the least reports of corruption on the continent.

Diamonds are the main export commodity, followed by beef. The wonderful Okavango Delta in the northwest of Botswana is the world’s largest inland delta, and it amazingly runs into a desert. The Kalahari Desert is home of the San and Khoi (Basarwa) people, otherwise known as the Bushmen, made famous by the movie The Gods Must be Crazy.

Botswana is said to have the biggest concentration of wild animals in the world, wild animals that roam freely in the Kalahari, Chobe, and other areas of the country. The largest number of the oldest rock paintings in the world is also found in Botswana.

 

Lucy Thairu
Lucy Thairu is an editor and writer. She is interested in real life experiences of others, biographies and historical events. Her experience working for government, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and her experience as a volunteer expatriate and entrepreneur has given her the ability to look at issues from a different perspective.