Gaborone, BOTSWANA – In the part of Gaborone where I live, tranquility and etches of nature are gifts found between malls and shopping areas.
Even with the bustling of cars or the sirens of ambulances in our capital city, there is a reasonable amount of ambience. I’m always assured to have a moment of complete silence in my day either in the afternoon or evening and of course, mornings, with only the rustle of leaves on the trees and the chirping of birds.
I love the Main Mall. The nearby community of Dialeleo, where I live, is my rest, but Main Mall is my life.
Working class people, office workers, shoppers and others who come to reunite with old friends – bring life to the streets. Most of all, the hawkers who fill the sides of the streets add color and lure the tourists looking for souvenirs. Hawkers sell staffs, bowls, toys, statues and other lovely wooden crafts. Others sell ‘airtime’ for mobile phones, snacks and drinks or clothes.
Built in 1963 – three years before independence – the Main Mall still proves to be a monumental cultural hub and memory of the country’s beginning for those who work in the nearby Government Enclave, including in the ministries and Parliament buildings that I adore.
The Main Mall is more stimulating than the strictly commercial malls here, like Airport junction and Game City, where one cannot expect to do anything useful on an empty pocket and cannot wander around and talk to the locals.
Young people gravitate toward the Diamond Square Hub, a colorful spot filled with the aroma of good coffee. It’s a place I would like to visit, get a cup and have a conversation on current affairs with a good fellow.
When I started going to the Mall on my own, I realized how it is tied in with my country’s history. The Mall holds the Post Office, Standard Chartered Bank and shops selling most essentials. This mall takes care of all your errands. Store include Spar, a local grocery chain, as well as pharmacies and other shops for clothes and electronics.
There are thrift stores, known here as “Chinese stores” because they are run by Chinese people, and my favorite bookstore the Botswana Book Centre, and let’s not forget the British, German and Nigerian embassies. It then breaches onto the Government Enclave and gives a path to commuters to reach the station on foot.
Back in Dialeleo, the Africa Mall is also worthy of admiration. Though it gets a small fraction of the shoppers who come to the Main Mall, it does not lie desolate. Taxi drivers and other working men can relax and play pool in the shade by the parking area.
The mall includes diners, more Chinese shops and a convenience store. There are pharmacies, tailors, fabric stores, a Nandos chain restaurant and embassies for South Africa and Italy.
Batswana are generally very friendly but like all ethnicities, friction does occur. Western influence, the changing tides from South Africa and gradual modernization encouraged by President Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi are bringing new personalities and issues, including ones previously overlooked, such as gender-based violence.
But I do not fear such appraisals. I still find love for this nation that nursed me and taught me about the world, helping me to remember my identity, cause and find my worth.
Joshua Mulema is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.