As Palapye is gripped by transformational rapture which has its pros and cons, from a simple railway station to a fast urbanising village, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS report that the village has long qualified to be the countryâ€™s next town
Sphalabanyana, as Palapye is affectionately known, has become a huge construction site. 'Palapians' as villagers are known and outsiders alike have been taken aback by the phenomenal and unprecedented infrastructural developments that have characterised the village in the last few years. New architecturally impressive and aesthetically beautiful buildings springing up overnight have produced a dramatic effect on the face and complexion of the village. From merely being a convenient railway stop over, Palapye has transformed into a vibrant town, a preferred destination of choice for entrepreneurs, job and fortune seekers. The question is what makes this village tick? How did Palapye steal the thunder from Serowe?
Palapye was originally the headquarters of the Bamangwato kingdom during the reign of Khama III. It lost its prestigious status in 1902 when it was abandoned in favour of Serowe. As a satellite village in the wider Central District, Palapye was expected to play second fiddle to Serowe on many fronts.
However, over time the village shot to prominence and has since eclipsed not only the Bamangwato capital but also its peers elsewhere. Owing to the advantage of its geographical location, the village of Palapye became more appealing as a centre of commerce. Its population has gradually swelled as fortune seekers from Serowe and other parts of the country gradually drift into Palapye because it is deemed to be a land of hope and opportunity. Socially, it is believed that Palapye was originally inhabited by young Bangwato ‘rebels’ or non-conformists who wanted to start new independent lives free of parental influence. The earliest inhabitants carried the stigma of 'batho ba lekeishane'.Nature played a very significant role in reshaping the future of Palapye. Johannesburg is well-known for its exploitation of gold and was built on gold. Palapye’s rise to prominence is linked to the discovery and exploitation of its rich coal deposits. Today, Palapye is Botswana’s chief supplier of energy and plans are afoot to transform the village into a regional energy power house. There is a readily available market for energy as the southern Africa continues to experience a power crisis. Palapye is well poised to fill this void. Morupule B, the on-going refurbishment of Morupule A and the upcoming development of Morupule C are geared towards feeding neighbouring countries with energy.
The strategic geographical location of Palapye makes it a preferred destination for potential investors. Palapye sits almost half way between Botswana’s two cities of Gaborone in the south and Francistown in the north. Owing to its central location, it has the potential to grow into a regional commercial hub serving southern Africa. Moiseraele Goya, the energetic Palapye legislator, was born and brought up in Palapye. Like any son or daughter of the soil, he is elated at the speed at which developments are taking shape in Palapye.
From the government side, Goya says a new hospital is expected to start construction in 2019, just a stone’s throw from the current new police station along the A1 highway. He is excited that the new modern hospital will change the face of Palapye for the better.
“From construction to completion, the hospital will help create the necessary jobs to employ mostly the young people who are jobless in Palapye and anybody else who qualifies for any avilable job,” declares the optimistic legislator.
Another upcoming opportunity is at the envisaged airport that Goya says is expected to be constructed between Palapye and Serowe in the untouched thickets just outside Dikabeya.
“This on its own will increase jobs from construction until its completion. Support services will also open opportunities.”
On the energy side, Shumba Energy and Morupile Coal Mine have a deal envisaged for 2019-2020 where a new coal mine called Morupule South will mainly be exporting coal to external markets. “The same company will also open another mine to specially feed a 300MW power station. In terms of job creation this will improve the oportunities in Palapye. There will also be skills transfer and other benefits tio the villagers andf Batswana generally.” He also talks about the four mushrooming malls in Palapye located mainly along the A1 highway which he says will create even more jobs for the unemployed people in Palapye and the region.
Developments have their negative sides and any place where there is a boom, will invariably also face challenges.