The three Cities Road Trip Challenge, a Rea Vaya Travel Company tour to Manzini Swaziland, Maputo with a final stop in Johannesburg this past festive season was a marvel.
The three-Coach procession of the newest kid on the travel and tours block took off from Gaborone into South Africa through Tlokweng Border Post in a revolutionary easterly pivot deep into the heart of Southern Africa. One of the prized takeaways from the Rea Vaya’s 3 Cities Challenge is definitely the merriment of fellow holidaymakers.
Strangers effortlessly became friends and conversations flowed with ease into the night, topics changing in an instant: from the politics back at home to the “chameleonic-ways of the media”-so they said. Two things struck me early in this sojourn: One of them was waking up to the world class South African road network. Even to the eye of a lay man, South African roads come across very urbane and sophisticated. The infrastructure is testament to the country’s size of economy and status as a regional and continental powerhouse.
The roads strike a traveler as having been built to last. They do not bear the scars of reconstruction that afflict ours. Aesthetically they are very appealing, adorned with road marks that are alien to this region of ours. The second has to do with the efficacy of the South African traffic police who dotted each highway, thoroughfare and street in the especially accident prone season of festivities.
Slicing through the Mpumalanga province en route to the Matsamo Border Post proved to be the mother of all contrasts. It was a reminder of what we have and what we do not have back at home. The land is characterised by towering mountains, huge gushing rivers winding alongside the mountain ranges, flanked by green undergrowth. The land also bore creeks, ravines and valleys so deep and in a scale no one among us had ever seen before. It was the stuff that Sci-Fi’s, Western and adventure motion picture is made of.
However, this is not to suggest that the great and long drawn mountain ranges have been spared the plough blades of Afrikaner farmers. Eucalyptus trees used to make gum poles and electric pylons are planted on top of these mountains. These trees are planted in such a manner that they resemble a pseudo-artwork of sorts. They are planted in rows tilting in different directions and are different sizes. They are also planted at different times of the year so that they can be lumbered in precise sequence. The result of this is eucalyptus fields of varying sizes.
When one passes the customs area of the Jeppes Reef/Matsamo Border Post; a point of entry between South Africa and Swaziland, the immediate striking feature in the skyline is the humongous mountain ranges. Another immediate recognizable change as one enters Swaziland from South Africa is the change in quality of the road network. Swazi ones are narrow, with scant shoulders and faded markings.
Swaziland is a mountain Kingdom in its own right. From Jeppes Reef/Matsamo border to the nearest town of Pigs Peak, the road meanders up and down mountains which collide to form deep valleys, some of them with flowing waters. These roads can give a jalopy the road test of its life.
Swazi villages dot these mountains. These mountain villages seem off limits for policing as they are simply out of reach for vehicles. Manzini which is one of the two largest cities in the Kingdom is fairly a small but urban city. It is home to Ezulwini Valley, the kingdom’s number one tourism cash cow. The valley encompasses different hotels such as Lugogo Sun Hotel, Happy valley Hotel and Casino among many others.
The Valley is also home to the Execution Rock also known as Nyonyane. According to legend, Swazis who committed capital offences in the pre-independence era were taken uphill and forced to leap to their deaths off the high cliff. Swazi warriors would edge an offender with spear jabs from the back.
Swaziland tourism even admits that the valley is spread over many kilometers stating, in its website: “The valley has no convenient road signs to demarcate where it begins and ends. It is generally understood to extend from the bottom of the Malagwane Hill southeast along the MR103 as far as the Lusushwana River, where the latter crosses the road just west of Lobamba, and is bordered by the Luphohlo/Lugogo Mountains to the west and the Mdzimba Mountains to the east. Some extend this definition to encompass Lobamba, Mlilwane and indeed the entire length of the MR103 as far as Matsapha.”
In local proportions, this might cover an area roughly from Kgale View to Broadhurst or even Tlokweng. In its expanse, the valley’s attractions include hotels, restaurants, hot springs, casinos, a cinema, craft markets, art galleries, riding stables, a nature reserve, a golf course and a cultural village and a mall. Most visitors pass this way, and those who spend just one night in the kingdom will probably spend it here.
One of the most visited and revisited place in the valley is the Matenga Cultural village. Mantenga is a small protected area of 725 hectares in a secluded corner of the Ezulwini Valley; it is only two kilometres from a major road. The Mantenga Falls are said to be Swaziland's best-known falls, and the largest in terms of volume of water (95m high).
The reserve is home to the Mantenga Cultural Village, a living museum of old traditions and represents a classical Swazi lifestyle during the 1850s. It comprises 16 huts, kraals and byres for cattle and goats, reed fences and other structures. The dance troupe in Matenga includes Swazi warriors and maidens partaking in an electrifying song and dance. Mantenga Cultural Village is the only tourist facility in Swaziland with its own fully-fledged permanent troupe.
Since 2004, Mantenga Cultural Group is said to have toured several European countries for a series of festivals and private appearances in countries such as Belgium, German, and France. Forging north east proceeding to Mozambique through the Mhlumeni/Namaacha Border Post it was evident that Swaziland is almost exclusively made of mountains as they start to recede as one tears forward into the Mozambican interior.
Mozambique is a hot and humid country. To some people it can be a jolt of culture shock though. With a population of 23 million one item that took many aback was the magnitude of hawkers and their tenacity when doing business. They mill around foreigners literally forcing one to buy.
Maputo is a vibrant city with historical sights of its own. One is the Samora Machel statue in central Maputo. Our visit to the country coincided with the shooting to death of former President, Armando Guebuza’s daughter, Valentina Guebuza by her husband. The tour guide told us that Valentina was one of the richest people in the country despite being only 38 years. He further disclosed that suspicion in the country was that her father pillaged the country’s assets and fronted with her more so that she was known for her riches but not business acumen.
The ultimate attraction in Mozambique was a boat cruise to the Portuguese Island, a few nautical miles from the mainland. Beaches in the mainland boasted dirty waters and one would not enjoy their holiday experience with nagging hawkers anyway. However the Portuguese Island boasted white sandy beaches and blue waters. It was so picture perfect that even a marriage proposal was done on the island by two lovebirds.
In retrospect, even though the sojourn had its own glitches, it was some of these that made the trip even worthwhile to remember.Coming back to Botswana the melancholy of having to part with fellow holiday maker friends was palpable in the coach. I had already made friends. Monty Siamangwe, Boaz, Masego and Tapologo were some of them.
Even as I write this piece I’m still hung on the nostalgia of the Rea Vaya 3 Cities Road Trip Challenge. It is something I will definitely do again this year. It is doubtlessly a revolutionary travel package by Rea Vaya Travel Company that gives holidaymakers a multicultural and multistate experience.
A job, lucrative or not, is a job after all. Sometimes one has to compromise in order to make a living, few people get a job their dream jobs. But once in a while there is an emergence of people who listen to their inner calling to pursue their passion.
The founder and head designer of Butterfly Couture, Chawa July is one of those few people who left their job to pursue their passion. An inspiring fact about July is that she is a self-taught fashion designer, she used to copy patterns from her old clothes until she learnt how to draw them, and she also searched information from the internet to increase her knowledge and skills.
“It all started as a hobby from my love for beautiful dresses and I started adjusting and making clothes for myself. Gradually people around me started to take interest in my craft and the hobby slowly grew into a profitable business,” July said.
The 41 year fashion designer from Molepolole worked her way up in the Procurement space for over 10 years. She worked at Stanbic Bank, Kromberg & Schubert and Clover Dairy as a Procurement supervisor. Her last job before she entered the fashion industry was a Manager for Contacts & Sourcing at a Facilities Management Company.
She established her fashion house in October 2019 and it has become synonyms with elegant wedding gowns and exquisite evening wear. July said when designing she is inspired by various aspects such as the client’s personality, the mood of the event and the theme. She further mentioned that every opportunity is to show her craft so she always aims to please.
“Every Butterfly Couture piece must represent the elegance and the creativity the brand is about,” she said. Butterfly Couture has adorned beauty queens; Miss Botswana 2021/2022 Ambrociah Samboko at Miss Universe in South Korea and Miss Botswana 2019,Oweditse Fafah Phirinyane during her reign of which is the highlight of her career. They have also marked their presence in a few fashion events locally and in the neighbouring countries.”
They showcased at The Grand Palm Wedding Expo, Masa Fashion Show, Miss Botswana Fashion Show and Sacunda plus Size Fashion Show. The will also be showcasing at Gabs July Fashion Show on the 15th of July alongside the South African designer, popularly known as the King of glamour David Tlale.
July also identified that one of the challenges they face in the couture is that, it’s a seasonal business. “There are times in the year when the business is great and challenging. Winter in particular, is difficult time to stay afloat as there aren’t as many events that people are inspired to dress spectacularly for,” she said. She further said that her aim is to be a prime couturier of choice in Botswana.
“Craft like your life depends on it because every happy client is 10 more referrals” is what she said when asked to serve a word of wisdom to people hoping to make it in the fashion industry.
The Botswana Gospel Music Awards (BOGMA) and the Annual Gospel Awards (AGA) are said to be no longer in existence and a joint venture project has been put up that will carry out the awarding of gospel musicians.
The new entity has been established as Gospel Music Awards, which is a project at this moment is nearer to dishing out the first Gospel Awards under the leadership of the dissolved entities (BOGMA and AGA). “The difference is the same, it is just that the two projects were run by different minds which had differing objectives,” said the project coordinator, Letsweletse Moshabi when asked what the difference was between the two previous awards.
He added that at this junction their focus is on the future of the gospel musicians and they would like to direct their energies to the new project and forgo the past projects. “The Music market especially the gospel genre is too small and that basically means the very small market was experiencing the imbalance in the supply and demand forces. At that stage, supply was more than the demand so the reason for the joint forces is to allow the supply and demand forces to readjust and form equilibrium,” added Moshabi.
The mandate and objectives of the project are to recognize and award gospel music talent, to create awareness of the Botswana gospel music industry and to create a platform where fellow musicians may exchange ideas and network amongst themselves and approach international markets in cohesion.
The first of these joint awards will be held on the 27th August 2022 at Molapo Showcase under the theme ‘Cohesiveness to Build’ where about 18 categories will be up for grabs.
The Kumnandi Ekhaya musik festival will be held on the 30th September 2022 at Thamaga village. The event coincides with the release of famous host, Dj Ngwazi’s first album called ‘spring day’ on the 2nd of September 2022.
The Thamaga born and raised Lefika Lushen Kebatlege is a disc jockey and a music producer signed under WanitwaMos Entertainment in South Africa. Famously known as Dj Ngwazi and formally known as DJ superstar, he has really worked hard to become one of the finest export DJs the country has produced. Internationally, he is described as a DJ from South African because of his works with popular music artist Master KG.
Meanwhile, the music festival will feature South African artists, Makhazi, Master KG, Prince Benza and Mthunzi. They will also be joined by some of the big local artists, Franco, Vee Mampeezy, among others. “The tickets of the concert will be available at Spar stores, webticket and Kings bar. There will be three categories for VIP tickets, the one that goes for P1000, P1500 and P2200,” said the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest promoter Sadie Swartz of Saysay Entertainment.
“We have a new system to tackle the cry of promoters about security at the events. We will have a team of 100 security men, 10 horses and 15 dogs. We also agreed with the police to help with traffic control and no tickets will be sold at the gate to avoid circulation of money which can attract thieves,” said Kagiso Gaodumelwe from All Night Security.
“I started deejaying back in the days when I was still schooling at Kagiso Senior School and I never stopped working towards my career since then. I have a career in South Africa, since 2018 when Master KG took me in and his support as a brother has taken me to places,” said DJ Ngwazi describing his career journey.
“Kumnandi Ekhaya is Zulu language which means ‘go monate ko gae’ in Setswana. The name came about as a way of inviting my South African fans and supporters to my home village Thamaga to come experience the joy that comes with celebrating our freedom and independence. I used isiZulu because it’s the dominant language in South Africa,” explained Dj Ngwazi.
“The concert will be held in an open space which was used for agricultural purposes and we would like to call it ‘Ko Legoleng’. With this concert I want to redeem the dignity of our village because we once had the cases of youth who were terrorizing the community, beating up people in the streets and stealing and these was really a concern in our community because they were tarnishing the village name,” said Dj Ngwazi.
The purpose of this concert is to empower the community of Thamaga and local artist, more especially artist from Thamaga village like, Kgabo Sereto traditional group. There will be a litter picking campaign around the village before the launch of the concert .The sponsors which are already on board are Dladleng Entertainment and Kings bar and there are still more sponsors to be revealed.
”As the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest management, we are going to buy food combos and take them to Thamaga village Kgotla so they can be donated to the less privileged and orphans. Starting from October we will be donating pads to all Junior Schools in Thamaga,” said Dj Ngwazi. Dj Ngwazi’s motivational words to other artist and everyone else; work hard, be patient and be determined.