If you are a resident in the capital city, then you will know that contrary to popular belief, the biggest problem in this city is not water and electricity shortages but accommodation! While some of us have already come to terms with the water and power shortages and even adjusted our lives to the situation accordingly by way of candles and extra buckets, the issue of accommodation is one that seems to have no permanent solution.
If ever there was any group of people that deserve to be labeled as ‘incarnations of evil’, my colleague told me the other day, it is the landlords. Several days later when he returned from his emergency leave, he had a story to tell and his hilarious story involved his landlord locking him out of his own house, a fist fight, a visit to the hospital and moving out under the watchful eyes of policemen.
It is not uncommon to see cars loaded to the brim, with household stuff, especially at month end. Now there is something about month end that excites people and the last place you would want to be at month end in this city, is on the road or at the malls. People buy goods, groceries and even furniture and research carried out by some local economics months ago revealed that most Batswana buy on impulse, that we even live beyond our means. It is only when you see brooms, mops and even buckets hanging from these particular trucks common at month end that you realize that these are no ordinary shoppers but tenants, forever on the move.
Some years ago I accompanied a friend on some bizarre errand. The friend had arrived unannounced one early Sunday morning on my doorstep where he then begged me to accompany him to ‘some place’. The errand sounded urgent, so much that he was even impatient when I asked to at least change into more decent clothes. Feeling annoyed, I tagged along. Driving like a maniac, he ignored my questions and within minutes we pulled up at another house on the other side of town. Before the car could even come to a complete stop, my friend had jumped out and was already inside the yard. Not knowing what was going on, I stayed in the car. Looking out the window moments later, I saw two young men and they appeared to be busy loading some household items on a parked truck, just in front of the house. Minutes later an argument erupted between the two men and my friend and before I knew it, my friend was on the ground. Up to today, my friend still maintains that he had slipped and fallen, that fate intervened in the nick of time just when he was about to skin the two gentlemen! It is his story and he is sticking to it, never mind that I watched the whole time. But by the time I got out of the car to investigate, the two young men had disappeared into thin air! Seconds later were inside the house, where we found two ladies packing stuff. Without a word, we headed back to the car and that was after he first locked them inside the house, thereafter chained up the gate after we reversed form the yard. Moments later we were headed back to the house but this time around, with policemen.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The story of tenants fleeing houses, sometimes at midnight is an all too familiar story in Gaborone. The whole process of moving house (legitimately) is tedious on its own but if you are leaving in a hurry it becomes a real mission, though some people still have no qualms doing it every month from house to house. But tenants always have stories to tell about their landlords, if it is not a landlord having increased the rent unexpectedly, then it’s the landlord making unreasonable demands or just being nosey; complaining about the number of visitors or just unhappy that the tenant’s children or pets ‘make noise’ all night. Which will even explain why most tenants never seem to have any children and pets; it can never be easy fleeing at midnight with pets and children in tow, well unless both are heavily sedated upon evacuation. Bin Laden would still be alive, had he taken cue from tenants and be on the run with children, goats and chicken in tow!
What was he thinking anyway, four women, nine children, four bodyguards, fourteen goats and thirty-six chicken and you think you are on the run?