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A day in the plight of Kanaku

Tshireletso's visit brought a spark of hope to villagers PIC: LEBOGANG BAINGAPI
Mmegi Correspondent, LEBOGANG BAINGAPI, spent a day in Kanaku, witnessing the settlementís relief at meeting with Local Government and Rural Development assistant minister, Botlogile Tshireletso

KANAKU: Along the Trans Kalahari highway as you approach Mabutsane village, you will find a right turn, travel 10 kilometres on gravel, ahead you will find a small settlement called Kanaku.

Arriving in Kanaku, you will be met by roaming livestock, which are typical of similar settlements countrywide and a water tank, which supplies the entire area.                                                                                                                                            Today, the quiet, rustic sleepiness has been disrupted by rare excitement. 

All roads lead to the kgotla as the assistant minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso is due to address a meeting in the afternoon.

Tshireletso’s portfolio covers most of the issues that keep villagers in Kanaku awake at night.  The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is among government’s largest responsible for the affairs, resourcing and development of local authorities, which include cities, towns, district councils, tribal administrations and villagers in settlements such as Kanaku.

According to a groundbreaking poverty assessment conducted by Statistics Botswana last year, 81 of the estimated 216 villagers in Kanaku are classified as poor. 

Going by these statistics, just over one in every three people here at Tshireletso’s meeting is poor, or living below the poverty datum line.

Villagers here speak Sekgalagadi and Sesarwa, explains Kgosi Tokishi Tshubalobone. He says Kanaku villagers are a Basarwa tribe who look to nearby Mabutsane for most of their services.

Tshubalobone is not a happy man. After serving for many years as Headman of Arbitration during Kgosi Seepapitso’s reign, he is yet to be promoted to Headman of Records.

The matter does not sit well with him, and he pours his heart out to Tshireletso.

The settlement has a primary school, which only accepts Standard One and Two learners. The rest continue their studies at Mabutsane and are accommodated at the RADS hostel from where they push onto Standard Seven.

Near the primary school, a small structure comes into view, which serves as the mobile clinic.  Once a month, a nurse comes to render health services to villagers. Outside of that they travel to Mabutsane for their health needs.

The only source of employment here is Ipelegeng, government’s short-term employment support and relief programme targeted largely at the unskilled.

The only other job available was

that of the water bowser operator but that was eventually given to a ‘foreigner’, who comes from Maokane village. The development has angered youths in the village, who view it as exporting a job to an outsider.

The youthful Village Development Committee chairman, Rato Mohulakgomo takes a stand to lay down issues of concern in the community. Some intoxicated elders keep disturbing the proceedings and have to be calmed from time to time.

“The RADS hostel in Mabutsane is not useful to us as pupils walk 10 kilometres every weekend to meet their parents here in Kanaku,” he tells Tshireletso.

“Young as they are, this is not safe. 

Government has to hasten and extend our school to accommodate up to Standard Seven.”

Mohulakgomo also tells the minister that the affirmative action that is supposed to give special preference to rural dwellers, is not fruitful for them as they have to queue for services in Mabutsane like others.

“The social welfare officers and council are ignoring four youths who were taken to further their studies at brigades and other tertiary institutions.

They were supposed to be absorbed, in line with the affirmative action guidelines,” he says. Tshireletso rises and informs the kgotla that the meeting cannot continue.

She blames this on poor administration and ‘an inexplicable and complex’ report submitted to her by the Mabutsane sub-district council.

Villagers who have turned out in numbers to express their concerns, are forced to pack up their chairs and return home without enjoying an audience with the minister.

Disappointed as they are, many point an accusing finger at senior council officials for not adequately preparing for Tshireletso’s meeting. Kanaku is under the Remote Area Development Programme and is expected to benefit from economic empowerment and poverty eradication programmes.

However, the report submitted is complex and does not show a breakdown of how Kanaku has benefited from these.

Deputy council chairman, Alec Seametso expresses his regret at the unfortunate situation and takes the blame.

He promises to re-visit the settlement with more concrete answers and ultimately give a written report to the assistant minister.

Cold comfort for villagers here, for whom Tshireletso’s arrival was a shaft of sunlight, breaking through heavy clouds.




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