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Vusi’s CD & DVD Launch; an inspirational Youth Empowerment narrative

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela.

Regular readers of my offering, here and elsewhere, close friends and immediate family will attest to the fact that I am not a night crawler or a party animal. The word ‘boring’ has been used describe my lifestyle and personality several times. 

I’m used to it; feel free to describe me as such, if you want. The only time I’m not home resting, writing or reading during weekends and holidays is when I’m either honoring an official invitation or there is a really special lady involved directly or indirectly.

The reason I prefer to be indoors on weekends and holidays is simply because I’m not blessed with singing and dancing tactics. It is also because I’m one of those that are not economically blessed; I honestly cannot afford to sustain the night life lifestyle. I also don’t like the sight of fellow citizens being divided into socioeconomic classes; they call them platinum, gold, silver and bronze circles in most cases.

I know our country has been declared one of the most unequal societies in the world, but I still can’t stand being in a place where societal and economic inequalities are proudly promoted and celebrated. At the recent Miss Botswana pageant a colleague laughed at me when I told him I will not eat the food offered in our section.

I explained to him I am doing it in solidarity with fellow countrymen in the same room but denied the food simply because they are victims of manufactured socioeconomic inequalities. I told him I religiously subscribe to the African sprit of “Ubuntu”. I also shared with him a short story of an anthropologist that proposed a game to children in an African tribe. he put a basket full of fruits near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits.

When he told them to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that when one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said, ‘UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?’ UBUNTU’ is simply a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as: "I am because we are.”

These are simply part of the reasons why I prefer staying home resting, writing or reading during weekends and holidays.

But the past weekend was a unique weekend, an extraordinary weekend. It was one of the very few weekends I happily made a voluntary decision to forego my comfort, rebel against the cold and upset my already upset cash flow by attending a music show. This time around it was music festival by a renowned local gospel artist –Vusi Mtoukfa.

Based on the buildup, the actually event and the event aftermath, it is safe to conclude that it was indeed an amazing show. Most, if not all, media houses speak highly of the event. Similarly, based on the number of cooperate sponsors that associated with the show, it was evidently an extraordinary show.

I am not an expert on issues of; stage presence, security, time management, sound quality, stage setup and so forth, but most experts were in agreement that all aspects were on point. As confessed earlier, I’m not blessed with singing and dancing skills, but from the way I witnessed the crowd move and sing along to Vusi’s songs, one could easily tell the crowd was having a really great time.

Well, I must also admit I had fulfilling night in my own right. For me attending Vusi’s show and seeing multitudes of people embracing his music, was the highlight of the night. It felt like a fiction story in real life. It felt like watching part of a sad series with a happy ending.

Like most of you, I do not know Vusi personally, I have never met him, I hope to get an opportunity to meet him one day. Like most of you, I’m just familiar with his songs and, like most of you, I have learnt about his fortunate and unfortunate life stories through the media.  From my understanding; Vusi is a gifted young artist, a gospel singer to be precise. He started singing at the tender age of 13, for a very young artist in the early 2000s his music and talent did exceptionally well.

Unfortunately as he gradually graduated into his prime teenage years, his life and music career turned otherwise. Media reports tell us he did not do well in his studies, he messed up his music contracts at the time, he turned to drugs and alcohol, and he also had endless cases of promiscuity and affairs with older women. At some point he accused of murder. Unfortunately as is the nature with our society, his tribulations and challenges became center stage and made headline news.

As is the nature with our society, he was swiftly and conveniently written-off and literally buried alive. His downfall was celebrated in some corners of the country. Nonetheless, after many years of harsh hardships, tribulations, controversy and criticism, he evidently triumphed against all odds. He dusted the dust, nursed his wounds and did not give up on life and his career. During the darkest moments, he maintained focus with hope of seeing the light.

Though it was evidently not easy and it took a very long time, it seems perseverance, dedication and faith in God pulled him through. In this regard to me his latest CD and DVD launch was mainly about this, and my attendance was fundamentally to honor and celebrate this reality. 

More importantly, I intensely believe Vusi’s real life story is not just a tale of restoration and a music career. It’s a story with fundamental teachings and inspiration for young people in our country. It is a story about the life most of Youth battle with.

It is a story about living a genuine human life. One wise fellow once said, ‘show me a man who has never made a mistake, and I will show you one who has never lived’. It is a unique and necessary story; it is a classic real life story. It is a story most young people need to hear quite often. It is a story that can, and should, be used to inspire and restore lives of many young people across the country. It is a story destined to give hope to the despairing.

As youth advocate I have seen many cases of despair among our country’s children, it is really disheartening. Socioeconomic hardships have seriously driven some of our young citizens into lives of; crime, drugs, prostitution and bleakness.

Some are already behind bars, some are in psychiatric hospitals and some have committed suicide. One of the greatest challenges with these young people is restoring hope and self-confidence, convincing them that there is a second chance in their lives.

Though the NYP (National Youth Policy) and associated guiding Youth Development Frameworks speak profoundly about Youth rehabilitation and restoration, it is clear there is still way much more that needs to be done in this area. I believe Vusi’s life story is one of the tangible (real life) stories that should be used to inspire and change lives of many young people in this country.


*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk)

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WeekendLife

Vee, Charma Gal battle it out for fellow artistes

4th May 2021
Vee, Charma Gal

Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

In these unprecedented times of the overwhelming and the deadly COVID-19, it is only critical that people stand together and remain committed to helping each other, being kind enough to lend a helping hand in any way possible.

The contagious virus left people confounded, deprived and depressed. The pandemic shuttered many economies, industries and the entertainment sector was no exemption. If anything, the entertainment industry took the biggest hit of all the sectors but this was a hit felt in every country in the world not just a local tragedy.

There were tear-jerking testimonies of creatives, in particular artists, suffering from extreme hunger as events were given a rain check. Technically, social events have been shut for sixteen months now.

There were series of protests calling for the immediate opening of the creative sector, in a phased manner. Some brave yet unfortunate artists were arrested for taking up arms and protesting the strict COVID-19 regulations placed on the entertainment sector.

When protests failed and their laments falling on government’s usual deaf ears, prominent artists Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

COVID-19 has created untold challenges for musicians in Botswana, but there are possibilities- challenges have a way of breeding solutions nonetheless.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday, Vee said the Battle to Develop Artists Welfare is aimed at inspiring artists to learn diversification, which has been lacking for quite a stretch amongst fellow artists. A lot of local artists depend solely on music, which on its own has been performing below par, and COVID-19 has brought that into clear view, showing how most artists in Botswana live off scraps, barely making money off their beloved passion- music.

“This project was born out of compassion. The world as it is now is experiencing a rough patch, and you can imagine how other artists are coping. It is really a struggle, and we saw it critical to jump on-board and help our fellow colleagues. It will help artists start small businesses, some will start short courses which will enable them to find employment in the long run.

For it to have weight, we incorporated it into a challenge on stage, performing our songs. We hope this will inspire business moguls to sponsor and pledge some monies towards this initiative,” said Vee.

Charma gal indicated that the live battle on stage has been supported with musical instruments, further indicating that this is a volunteerism project with no proceeds to gain from.

“We will divide and disburse proceeds to our fellow artists, I mean these are people we have been working alongside for so many years. There is no how we can be reckless towards them when we see how hard the situation is.

We are in this together, and we are going to stick together like that. Some have started already doing something, and meeting them half way is only fundamental,” Charma Gal told WeekendLife.

The duo stressed that Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Mpho Balopi, has pledged P50 000 towards this battle, further calling on other businessmen to come to the party. Vee says Balopi supported the initiative from the get-go, brushing aside allegations that the project is politically influenced.

Initiatives brought forward to aid the entertainment sector have caused controversy, with Vee emphasizing that not all artists will benefit from this particular charity cause. “We have artists who are struggling, and sadly so. Some of them were bread winners and there is no income coming in, making it hard for them to cope with the economic challenges.

There has been an increase in VAT recently, and such developments make the situation worse. Rigorous assessments will be done to identify our desired beneficiaries.”

Vee and Charma Gal will be battling it out on stage with the battle scheduled to take place on the 28th May 2021. Because events are still striped, the show will be online with COVID-19 protocols to be adhered to.

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WeekendLife

BOMU, MYSC kiss and make up

27th April 2021
BOMU-VEE

Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions.

2020 was a depraved year for the local entertainment industry. Music festivals, large gatherings and concerts were given a rain check as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the deadly Corona-virus. As for an industry that depends solely on events for survival, the move to shelf gigs was literally kicking a dog when it’s down.

There was no revenue coming in, and depression found its way into the already devastated industry. Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, was fingered in this muddle. He was censured for being hushed. The relief fund also sparked controversy, with many creatives of the belief that it’s prejudiced and impractical.

Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions. The situation became chaotic as police officers told the artists that the gathering is illegal and that they should get a permit first. Artists decided to go the right way, applying for a permit to hold their meeting, and this time around in Old Naledi.

Creatives (most of which are BOMU members) came out swinging as they packed Old Naledi grounds in a show of strength against the COVID-19 Task team and politicians. But gathering a large crowd at the Old Naledi grounds was like playing a game of Russian roulette, as most of the attendees were potentially exposed to the Corona virus because there was no social distancing, wearing of masks, nor sanitization.

Artists however were clearly making their voices heard – they wanted their industry opened, but by the look of things the Task Force team will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat for this to be given the greenlight before another year comes to pass. Till date, the creative industry is still abandoned.

Following a series of protests, the custodian Ministry (MYSC) came up with virtual gigs and engaged artists for performances. However, this fuelled tension between upcoming artists and those who are already household names. In late December 2020, a group of young artists demanded answers from the Youth Ministry on how the so called ‘Big Artists’ secured virtual gigs from the Ministry.

A new BOMU Executive Committee was ushered in August last year which saw the Union and the custodian Ministry smoke a peace pipe. Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is an organization that works as an intermediary between registered artists and the Youth Ministry.

On Friday (16th April 2021) at a press conference to launch the 10th BOMU music awards, BOMU President Phemelo ‘Fresh’ Lesokwane said the Union has effectively managed to rebuild and earn back trust with its stakeholders, including MYSC and De Beers.

“These two entities have been BOMU music awards’ top sponsors for the past 10 years. We have managed to revive the awards and appoint a person who I will refer to as a brand marketing specialist. There has been a lot of miscommunication peddled around and as a leader of BOMU, I will be irresponsible to ignore all of it,” Fresh said.

Fresh is definitely not MYSC nor Minister of Rakgare’s spokesperson, but he had this to say: “It is very important I clear up the distortion of facts out there. MYSC and BOMU leadership have been hard at work, and in the previous year, we managed to push 90% of our members to register with COSBOTS so as to benefit from the subsidy. For the matter of fact, this did happen.

BOMU says it managed to convince MYSC to fund their 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM). “The Ministry accommodated, paid all costs of accommodation and food for all the delegates who attended the AGM. This was a first for BOMU for as long as anyone can remember. I was so happy to see Minister Rakgare attending our AGM, which was for the first time also.”

Rakgare and his associates have been given a pat on the back for the national consultative meetings they took last year. They met with industry representatives and discussed calendar of events and how they should be rolled out. BOMU also pleaded with the Youth Ministry not to cancel events this year, and according to Fresh, the Ministry agreed.

“This is why they are helping with BOMU music awards and in due course, we will be calling the media to reveal the sponsorship. And on top of that, BOMU has access to the Minister and his circle of associates. They have their doors open for us, and we can’t be fighting with the Ministry while we see how welcoming it is to us. Lot of noise is made by non-BOMU members, which should be condemned in any way possible.

The Youth Ministry however, says it will engage on consultations with organizations, not individuals. This is why it is very important for artists to join BOMU now.”

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WeekendLife

Feminism and Nudity still at odds

19th April 2021
Feminism and Nudity

This past week seemed like a time travel back to the early 1970’s where women were judged and stoned for what they wear, what they should wear, and whose attention their dress code will grab.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry gave their two cents on the matter, unnecessarily so. Its disheartening that in 2021 a woman is dictated to about what she should wear.

The genesis of the whole saga was because of a certified life coach and personal trainer, Agang Atlholang, derided as an example of an anti-feminist.

Atlholang updated a controversial post on her Facebook page where she seemingly attacked and dragged some women for wearing appealing clothes that leave little to the imagination.

The personal coach further went on to highlight that she could be fully clothed and be able to attract and steal some of these women’s lovers. Audacious of her to assume but more disheartening that her wardrobe is subliminally dictated by men.

It should be noted that this wasn’t her first controversial post where she has threatened or promised to take other women’s men, it may not be her last either but this post however did get on a lot of women’s last nerve.

“A woman’s sexuality is so much more than her thighs, (beep) and breasts. It’s your aura, confidence, seduction and the way you carry yourself, watching everything rock and roll in silence. I know who I am, I am a boss lady. I can still get your man without showing skin,” said Atlholang.

It is hard to place the fitness coach, is she pro-feminism or anti-feminism? Because one minute she would say something that makes sense and that almost everyone can relate to and other times she barks threats like a toothless bulldog.

She was not wrong to publicly and indirectly affirm that she doesn’t wear revealing outfits, but for her to be coming at those who do so was entirely out of line. How a woman presents herself to the world has a very little to do with a man’s preference.

Any personal liberation of what one chooses to clothe their own body is clouded by the misogynistic backdrop of the world we live in. In all cases, a woman’s body is assumed to be someone else’s before is it her own.

If she takes off her clothes, it is seen to be a sign of her insecurity and need for validation, rather than feeling comfortable with herself. Once she’s stripped, that’s all she is. This is the insidious pressures of misogyny that we all have a duty to attack and put in the past where it belongs.

WeekendLife reached out to Atlholang but her phone went unanswered. She did not respond to a questionnaire sent to her on Wednesday.
Celebrated feminist Resego Kgosidintsi says there should be no expectations on what a woman does with her body. Some women are thick and curvy, while some are slim and petite, all body types are beautiful.

Kgosidintsi uploaded two pictures on her Facebook page in which she compared herself. In one picture she was only in a bikini on the beach whereas in the other picture she was wearing formal attire. She went on to say;

“I am the woman in both pictures, my worth did not decrease on picture 2 because I revealed almost all of my skin and neither is my worth on a 100 on picture 1 because my skirt is below the knee.

I have about 7 tattoos on my entire body and that still does not make me less of a woman. I drink and smoke cigarettes too and that doesn’t mean the woman in church who doesn’t smoke or drink more woman than me. Can we respect people’s choices, can we respect women.”
Feminist, media personality and socialite, Oratile Kefitlhile shares the same sentiments as Kgosidintsi.

‘‘Feminism is subject, if I feel as a woman that when I’m fully dressed I’m celebrating my femininity, so be it. If another woman feels they are embracing their femininity more with their thighs out, that’s perfectly fine still. Let them be.

We have been preaching this revolution for a very long time of women being allowed to wear what they want, and being allowed to embrace their womanhood in the way that speaks to them, so I feel at this point we should not be having these debates,” Kefitlhile told WeekendLife on Tuesday.

Controversial poet, artist and businesswoman, Berry Heart is of the belief that women are envious towards each other. She argues that celebrating femininity has no boundaries subsequently making no one woman superior.

Quizzed on what makes women fight over small issues such as what they wear, she says “Batswana women are broken so much that we don’t want to see another woman succeeding on anything. We desire to make them dejected.”

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