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moselapetlwa - place wHere life has stopped

By unknown | Jan 19, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Zeerust in the North West is like any other one horse town - a busy CBD of which the activities are mainly concentrated in one street.

Just 8km to the Botswana border is a bumpy gravel road leading to a remote village called Moselapetlwa.

Negotiating this gravel road for more than 6km is not child's play since it winds, twists and descends over the vast land.

For a while the journey felt like a tour in a game reserve, only there were none of the big five on either side of the road.

At the beginning of the narrow entrance into the village is Doornlaagte Combined School.

The school made headlines after all 15 of its Grade 12 pupils who sat for the inaugural national Senior Certificate last year failed. The school only has seven classrooms, shared by Grade 1 to Grade 12 pupils.

Venturing into the village reveals abject poverty. There is no electricity, clinic, sport field or even a grocery store, let alone public transport.

Most of the villagers are unemployed and depend on social grants for survival.

"They come here every day and drink their lives away," said spaza shop owner Connie Kelepile. She also owns Tlhabologo tavern situated next to the spaza.

"As you can see, there is nothing else to do in this place, except look after your cattle if you have any."

They are the only amenities available to the destitute residents. Ironically, Tlhabologo is a Setswana word that means civilisation.

Two young men play pool inside the tavern. I ask one of them, Peter, how he spends his days in the village.

"As you can see there is no employment here. I finished matric three years ago but have nowhere to go and nothing else to do. I spend my days here drinking and chatting to friends. There is nothing else to do," he said.

On the opposite side of the beer hall sat three old women sharing a bucket of sorghum beer. They seemed to have had enough of the brew and were mumbling inaudibly among themselves.

I asked Kelepile how she conducted her business without electricity.

"This village is a very difficult place to live in. I use a power generator. I tried to talk to the villagers and the chief to get Eskom to instal electricity, but they refused," she said.

Just two streets away is the schoolteachers' residential area. All of the school's seven teachers and the principal are from outside the village. They live in what is referred to as "teachers' quarters". These are five single rooms and a caravan scattered around the yard.

"We tried to get a bus to operate in the village at least during weekdays but the villagers did not support our efforts. I have never seen a place like this. My heart aches for the young ones," said a teacher.

She said the villagers said they were happy with the two vans that ferried them to wherever they wanted to go.

I asked whether this was not South Africa's own version of an Amish community?

The similarities are there: they seem to shun civilisation, refuse to let their children leave the village, or even take school trips, as one teacher put it.

"They are a closely knit tribe. No one marries outside the tribe," the teacher said

Not so, protested tribal leader Kgosi Moreri.

"We do not reject civilisation. We believe things should be done properly," he said.

I asked him why the villagers refused to have a bus and why there was no electricity?

"Those projects are still in the pipeline. Certain procedures have to be followed first," Moreri said. When pressed, he could not explain the procedures that had to be followed.

"I named the tavern Tlhabologo. This was actually my plea for a change to a better life for our people in this village. I'm still hopeful, though. Our people need development," said Kelepile.


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