Experience #2 - Gaborone, Botswana


Today we complete two weeks out of home and we have passed through South Africa and Botswana. We arrived in Gaborone, the capital, on Monday, the 18th, after travelling for seven hours in a bus, coming from Johannesburg.


I should start saying that I have been surprised every day. By myself and others. By me because I’m washing my clothes in the tap daily, improving my English and the most important, because I’m feeling lighter. I still didn’t lose weight, but this lightness should be related to the satisfaction of being 100% dedicated to something that I really believe, even more next to my great life partner (and also for getting used to use pants that become shorts).


But as I said, I’m also being surprised by others. By Africa, that is way more incredible than The Lion King shows. By Botswana, which is the less corrupted country in Africa and the 30th in a ranking of 177 in total, prepared by Transparency International (Brasil is the 72nd). By the culture, laws and by the people. Mainly by the people.


Here in Gaborone, everything is very different. Many streets are just land, there are a lot of fast food and almost I haven’t seen buildings. One thing is a fact: people here love chicken. There is fried chicken, with bone, without bone, with sauce, in bread, in wrap and with potato, in nearly every corner.


The country has a population of a bit more than 2 million habitants, what makes it one of the less populated in the world. Even though, Fê and I choose to be always with the crowd, of course.


Botswana became independent from United Kingdom in 1996. In the same year, its Constitution was promulgated, which, for what we noticed, is waiting for an urgent restructuring. Here death penalty is still allowed, even considering the Constitution itself assure the right to live (legislators…). Public services seem to work well and the country is in constant development.

We learned all this with Ishmael, our newest best childhood friend, who received us since the first day. Also, it’s undeniable that a few angels are with us in this journey. Ishmael is one of them. He is from Botswana from a culture called Kalanga. He lived for eight years in England, where he graduated in law and now is back with his family.


Ishmael is the brother of the lodge’s owner, where we stayed and kindly put himself to be our public relations and guide in Gaborone. We told him about Think Twice Brasil and he, restlessly, took us all around the town, passing through villages, NGOs and all those places where tourists don’t go. Of course with strategic stops for fried chicken while we talked about politics and social transformation.


It was in these moments that we knew Ditshwanelo, a non-profit organization that develops an incredible job of defending and promoting human rights. We were cordially received by Sefemo Mokalake for a conversation about the current country situation and the challenges they face every day.


It ended up clear that the Constitution needs updates, mainly regarding human rights. A few contradictions and many omissions make the evolution of society more difficult. One of them is the fact that physical punishment are permitted by law, even in children made by the school.


We asked him if there was an effective movement from Ditshwanelo in favor of the Constitution renewal. He answered us that the carelessness of civil society ends up to be a barrier to bring up this topic for discussion. Ishmael discomfort was seen and surprised us when he showed his indignation with the population negligence about politics and laws. I don’t know why, but Fê and I left with the sensation that we knew exactly what he was feeling…


Another curiosity about Botswana is the fact that they still apply what they call Customary Law to judge certain matters. This law applies for almost 80% of the cases, as it is an alternative to have access to justice for those who have no condition to pay a lawyer fee. This occurs because in the Customary Courts the case is judged by a common citizen, who in most cases presents himself as one of the tribe leaders, requiring no lawyer assistance. The judgments aren’t made upon a code of law, but counting uniquely and exclusively with precedents happened and the common sense from who judges, what not always ends up in decisions effectively fair.


Regarding justice, we also had the chance to know Tlowaneng village, where people still live with well water, from livestock and the people seemed to be forgotten by the ones living in town. There the houses are very simple. A few rooms and a lot of residents. Children walk hours to get to school. Talking to a householder – that ran to change her clothes when we asked for a picture – she told us that her biggest dream was to see her grandchildren taking education seriously, so they can grow up wiser and prepared to take important decisions that can improve their lives. The video we made, in the end of this text, shows a little bit of this conversation.


Going on with our wanderings with Ishmael, we met another organization, BOSASNet – Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network, that works with prevention and monitoring for young and adults that are or were addicted to alcohol, drugs and/or different substances. Botswana treats alcohol abuse as a public health matter, because from there other issues arise such as HIV contamination, teenage pregnancy and violence. Unemployment also contributes to alcohol abuse. The young began to drink very early in life and observing this a few citizens decided to get together and fund BOSASNet in 2008. They are able to show that fun is totally possible without drugs and alcohol.

Kegomoditswe Manyanda e Isaac Tokonyane after telling us more about the organization, kindly invited us to be part of an open celebration to the young supported and families, that would happen on Saturday. We accepted the invitation and jointed to volunteer in the event. It was there where we could really notice the positive impact that BOSASNet mission generate to the community. There was dance, singing, karaoke and hot dog, all demonstrated that happiness doesn`t depend on any substance, at all. Perhaps only on chocolate, in my case…hehe

But don’t think that we were well received in all the organizations we went. In two of them it was clear the careless mood and a lack of patience to even briefly tell us about their work. This showed us how important it is to have people really involved with their cause, especially in this sector. And in reality, this works for any area. Being conscious that each function has a great importance to make the entire “wheel” spins well, should be a basic premise for everybody. This is even more fundamental in the case of institutions that survive with donations and should have a substantial part of their objectives to be close to the people and the society.


After seeing all this, going back home and thinking about what we would tell you, I was not yet convinced what the narrative of Experience #2 would be… It seemed like there was something missing, you know? Or maybe we needed to organize the flood of ideas and news.


Perhaps I was still waiting to enter in the middle of the African savanna and talk to entrepreneur girls while hearing The Lion King theme music. A bit of that pre-set vision from who didn’t know Africa, like me, and thought that it was all about hungry children and safari animals.


It was when chatting with Ishmael about law, politics, people, beer and etc he tells us: “I’ll still be the president of this country. I want to work for my people and give them the life they deserve”.


Now is done. Ishmael connected all dots and presented himself as the greatest inspiration of our experience in Botswana. As if it wasn’t enough changing our lives the time we were there, he still wanted to change the life of the whole country.


Then he asked if we would come back to Botswana and I answered yes, when he becomes president. He laughed. And I’m sure we will be back.


Gabi.