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Lobatse, the forgotten town

Lobatse bus rank. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
After 120 years of existence, the country’s erstwhile judicial capital, Lobatse, remains stagnant in terms of developments.

The town was the first place in Botswana to have developments when a 5km tarred or tarmac road was laid in 1958.

At the time it was intended that Lobatse become the capital city of Botswana, however, Gaborone was eventually chosen as the capital.

There is only one hotel in the town rich in historical monuments. Job creating entities keep shutting down while new projects are taking forever to take off. This has frustrated Lobatse residents and they believe elections are not meant to create jobs, but rather create employment for politicians.

“These politicians have long promised us MilkAfric, which we thought would help hire a good number of residents and also increase our population, it is taking forever for the projects to be completed. Another project is the Leather Park, which we were told would create 10,000 jobs.

We do not have any industries as some like the Lobatse Clay Works closing shop, bemoaned one Lobatse resident, Thabo Modiseemang.

Another Lobatse resident, Jeffrey Raphala said both the youth and old were forced to fight to be selected for Ipelegeng as it was their only option for an income.

“Life keeps getting tougher in Lobatse while we vote every five years. We have tried both the BDP and the UDC, but everything remains the same. Our only source of hope, BMC, is going through a difficult time and we are worried that more people will lose jobs,” he said.

Another Lobatse resident expressed concern that even though Lobatse has historical buildings like the first Radio Botswana offices, and houses that provided refuge for Nelson Mandela and other ANC activists.

“We should be able to cash in from our history as much as the South Africans are doing in Soweto. This would help create jobs for residents,” Maipelo Moeti said.

In the coming elections slated for later this month, Thapelo Matsheka wants to replace his colleague at the BDP, Sadique Kebonang. Also eyeing the parliamentary seat is former area legislator Nehemiah Modubule of the Botswana Movement for Democracy, Orapeleng Kakoma of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, Legodile Mothibi of Alliance for Progressives and independent candidate, Kamal Jacobs. The constituency has 27,000 people.

Mmegi spoke to Modubule who has been to Parliament before and still wants an encore as well as Matsheka whose party has been leading the constituency at both council and Parliament level.

“Unemployment is a major problem in a sense that Lobatse is surrounded by hills and farms and it cannot grow unless owners part with their farms. We do not have industrial firms because those that existed before lacked government support.

Look at BMC now on its knees and people have lost jobs. We used to have Lobatse Tiles, which also collapsed because government was importing

tiles. Lobatse Clay Works is just hanging in because it is not supported and over 200 people lost their jobs. We also used to have textiles in Lobatse, which have also closed due to lack of support,” Modubule said.

Modubule added that it was also expensive to build a house in Lobatse because of the soil, and also that government needed to assist investors when they want to build and create jobs. He said the government should buy farms to have land. He said he has successfully got government to buy 3,700 plots, which are yet to be serviced. He said he wanted to go back to Parliament to finish what he started.

With regards to the hospital, Modubule said it was to be built but the company that was awarded the tender got their contract terminated costing government a whopping P12 million. He said he wanted to go to Parliament to push for it.

He also said he came up with the Leather Park idea in 2012. He said the project could not bear any fruit as they had poor representation in Parliament and wanted to be voted back in to bring it back to life.

He also said Lobatse as a historical town needed to explore culture and heritage tourism, as it would create economic opportunities.

For his part, Matsheka said Lobatse needed infrastructural development.

“We need to build industries that will employ many of our people. We need to look at systems that have been making it difficult for us to do some things. President Masisi has said that he would look into them and such things that allow for people to use their land for productivity,” he said.

On health issues, Matsheka said he would push for the construction of Athlone hospital to be prioritised as it has been in the pipeline for a long time now.

He said he would also push to see Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital developed into a fully fleshed rehabilitation centre.

The former BMC board chairperson said he was pleased with the progress at MilkAfric stating that the delay is due to Foot and Mouth Disease in South Africa hence they cannot import dairy cows.

On why people should continue trusting politicians, Matsheka said he was confident that Masisi would be spoilt for choice for his Cabinet as there were a lot of fresh minds that will catapult the country to greater heights.

 2014 Parliamentary results

Candidate                        Political Party            Votes

Sadique Kebonang            BDP                         5,485

Ellias Rantleru                  BCP                          534

Nehemiah Modubule         UDC                          4,996

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