Over the last week, fellow scribe Keineetse ‘KK’ Keineetse, has been pouring his heart out on Facebook, about how he nearly lost his life at the hands of nine thugs who descended on him in his troubled neighbourhood of Tsolamosese, south of Mogoditshane.
The criminals, it seemed followed him from the supermarket where he had cashed from Orange Money, and took all that plus his cellphone, and the newly renewed Omang card he had collected earlier that day.
Now KK, a former soldier and a trained martial artist, is a fit strong man. He has written before about taking on thugs and winning the day. But this time around, he was really defeated and you could sense fear from his writings. His anger is that, pinned to the ground, under a reign of fists and kicks, and knife to his throat, he had to plead for his life.
It was his mention of the fact that he feels his criminal-ridden neighbourhood has now turned into Thamaga, which had me in shivers. This is my home for the last 10 years, and if an able and strong man like KK can sound scared of the thugs of my village, what about me?
The lovely village of many rivers and hills, once affectionately referred to as ko setho se teng (the place of well-mannered people) has over the recent past been turned into a gangster paradise.
Personally, I have seen once carefree young boys turning into young adults I no longer trust, and even fear. Before my own eyes, I have seen teenagers who would pop in to help me tend my garden, developing into hungry angry young men capable of anything.
The once jolly free spirited youngsters have turned to bitter unemployed crew, idling, and in most cases looking high. From what, I can only guess.
The life in me was gripped with fear recently when a neighbour informed me that another neighbour’s son, in his early 20s, is one of the incarcerated ‘Matsetsenkane’, the village’s feared gangs.
Now the youngman, had for years, been one of the frequent piece-jobbers in my yard, and amongst the few I could trust to feed my dogs in our absence.
When I see or hear cases of this nature, I have no choice but to believe that most of these youngsters turn to crime due to poverty. Unemployment is rife, and if one walks the streets for years without work, dejection and anger creep in.
Unemployment and poverty strip one of dignity, and if one is young, physically able but idling, turning to alcohol and drugs is next. In no time, these once harmless youngmen turn to crime. Of course, it is the minority who choose the life of terrorising communities.
Majority of the poor are decent people who try hard to survive this hard unforgiving world. But for we cannot run away from the fact that poverty is a contributing factor in the high
Even in his anger, Keineetse in one of his posts, makes mention of the fact that poverty is the root cause of crime.
Incidentally, before the Tuesday attack, KK was writing about a worker at one of the chain stores having pick-pocketed his wallet. While demanding action from the store, he noted that being employed did not mean the worker was not struggling.
Yes, in our country where workers’ wages are some of the lowest in the world, employment does not guarantee a better life. In fact, living in expensive city like Gaborone, making ends meet is just next to impossible for most workers.
But then you get shocking statements from some in government, declaring poverty levels have dramatically fallen.
Just last week, I watched in confusion as the permanent secretary in the Office of the President, told a meeting that poverty and unemployment have fallen to single digits. I was somehow not surprised because over the last few years, our government has been categorising temporary underpaying projects such as Ipelegeng and the new Tirelo Sechaba as employment.
Government enclave continues to argue that these ‘jobs’, with slave wages of around P500 a month, are gainful employment.
They are not. In fact these stop gap programmes are adding to poverty. In small villages like ours, where the only project Ipelegeng workers can do is grass clearing, there is stiff competition for slots.
Young and old month after month go to the Kgotla hoping for a call up. One can go for two months without that temporary employment. And you find that these desperate ‘workers’ majority of whom are women, of all ages, are sole breadwinners.
Then the very same week, we hear reports that Botswana’s individual rich are ranked second only to those of Mauritius, in Africa. Now that’s rich! Excuse the pun. Can we then expect the extreme poor to live in harmony with the extremely rich? The great wealth gap is just too much to comprehend.
But these millionaires are not the target of the violent street criminals, for they have little or no interaction with them. It is us, who walk, live and struggle amongst the extremely bitter poor, who pay the high price.
Our hard earned property is violently grabbed, in our hoods, by people we live with. Our lives are continuously in danger. We no longer know who to trust, because even your neighbour’s child may look at you and see a target for his next meal. As Bob Marley’s song goes; a hungry man is an angry man. Nothing but the truth!
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