A letter from Gaborone
Gaborone, 25 May 2004
Dearest Aunts Ausi, Thelma, Sarah, Gertrude, Donna, Helga, Fatima, and Chang,
You all are asking whether I have seen a Mma Ramotswe around town. Well, she doesn't seem to be around at the moment. But I've seen and met a number of local women pretty much like her.
Mma Ramotswe's house, in a "cul-de-sac" or dead-end lane just off Zebra Way, has obviously been rented out. Some one else's name must be on the gate. Mma Ramotswe must be getting a fair bit of rent, as the area has gone up-market in the last ten to fifteen years.
As for Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's house, that is one of those quaint old houses backing onto the "sanitary lane" near the Boer War graveyard in the old colonial part of Gaborone. It's shabby genteel, with a rusty roof, but the plot must be worth quite a bit nowadays. Let's hope that nobody buys it and puts a modern monstrosity in its place.
As you know, Gaborone (with the G pronounced like the CH in "loch" and "chutzpah") has undergone great change, as the capital city of Africa's fastest growing economy. There wasn't a single solid wall around a house twenty years ago: now they're everywhere. Single-storey houses less than thirty years old (the main city was built after 1964) have been re-modeled with an extra floor, or have been replaced by town houses. There are traffic jams during rush-hours, and everyone seems to have a cell-phone.
I'm not sure exactly where Mma Ramotswe's office and Mr Matekoni's garage used to be. They could have made a packet out of selling them to real estate developers.
Her office facing Kgale Hill, in Gaborone West, is most likely now covered by a business park and a U.S.-sized shopping mall built in the last four years. But there are still places in the nearby village of Mogoditshane that must look like her office did.
As for Matekoni's garage on Tlokweng Road, there is now a smaller but "posh" shopping mall there, near the Ngotwane River. But you can still see makeshift garages of the Speedy Motors type just across the river in Tlokweng village.
The old lifestyle, with chickens freely ranging over a beaten-earth yard, has been driven out of the city into these sprawling "tribal" village areas of Tlokweng and Mogoditshane, on the eastern and western edges of Gaborone. The city itself, including valuable recreational space, is being rapidly eaten up by new buildings and roads, with "over-speeding" cars that have banished the bicycle.
The Matekoni children are probably now studying science and technology, or business, at the University of Botswana. Otherwise, they are most likely to be in Australia or South Africa where Botswana is sending lots of students who cannot be accommodated at U.B.
As for Mr and Mrs Matekoni themselves, where are they? A friend of mine thinks they are in Francistown, or is it France? I suppose we could make enquiries in Mochudi, where Mma Ramotswe grew up and has relatives. Another friend tells me, and here I am a little confused, that they may be going into partnership with the Amazing Mister Minghella, an Englishman with an ice-cream business called "Cold Mountain".
Why don't you ask that nice Mr McCall Smith? You must remember him, the Scottish trainee detective who used to trail around after Mma Ramotswe, taking down her every word. (I am sure he learned a lot from her.)
Smith was with us in Gaborone again last year, for the annual Maitisong festival held around Easter. As usual, he was bubbling with enthusiasm, but the recital on the bassoon he gave during the festival was, so I'm told, "Truly Awful". He also had the gall to tell people here that the annual festival held in his home village, a place called Edinburgh, was actually bigger and better than ours.
Much love, and remaining always truly yours in the company of Gud Wymin,
Your ever loving nephew,
P.S. If you are really fed up with Red-Bush Tea, why not try Honey-Bush Tea or Devil's Claw Tea? Make sure the latter is really from Botswana. As for Honey-Bush, it is rather weak from a tea-bag as it needs to be boiled in the water.
(See Pictures of Gaborone)
Copyright © 2004 Neil Parsons