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A Journey in Vegetarianism

‘You’re what you eat’ – unknown origin

Growing up in Gaborone of the 1970s and 80s, in what some might have called a regular, lower-middle-class, single-income family, food for us at home nearly always consisted of nothing else but traditional Tswana/Setswana cuisine –mabele [sorghum], bogobe jwa lerotse, morogo [traditional greens], dinawa [black eyed beans], ditloo [Jugo beans], mmidi [maize], and, of course, this being Botswana, meat, meat, meat – though even this latter commodity would over the years become increasingly unaffordable for many urban households, without the option of slaughtering their own stock!


Only occasionally, on a Sunday, after church or Sunday school, as the case might be, or, for that matter, on Christmas Day, as those of our generation might care to recall, would one ever get to taste the much desired chicken and rice combo.


So you can imagine my shock when, in 1992, on an excursion to the East African nation of Tanzania, I was told that of all things, rice, which we here in Botswana have long considered to be something of a;’[ special treat, and definitely something to write home about, was for them, along with ugali, just another staple – eaten almost every other day (sometimes with milk!) by both the urban elite and the common people in the countryside.


Then in 1986, when, like a soldier headed for battle, I went out on my national tour of duty in Tirelo Sechaba, I experienced what I might regard as my first major dietary disruption – since TS was, if nothing else, all about tin-stuff – those cartons of Luck Star fish, corned beef, baked beans, and the like, that one hoarded in their kitchen.


So with neither mum nor sisters, at home, to prepare any of those nice and sumptuous family meals, for many us, TS participants, the scheme also coincided with a major decline in our eating habits, essentially reducing many to a life of only tin, rust and zinc.


Then a year later, in August 1987, while I was registering as a fresherman at the UB, my stomach hit rock bottom again, with the advent of institutional and communal eating arrangements, with then UB head cook, Mme Mma Dichaba, spoiling us to her treats of boiled chicken and rice and the like – which one would suppose were not too different from what they ate in government hospitals and the prisons services, for instance – and which we, freshermen, relished so much and gnoshed with gusto and glee, as befits highly active and blooming youth.


However, I would not be for too long an ecstatic and enthusiastic guest at Mma D’s table, for mid-way into my academic programme at the UB, I would soon be railroaded to stop eating meat and subscribe to a strict and sparse form of vegetarianism – no beef, no chicken, no eggs, and the like – by my rasta minders on campus.


And even though I would once in a while find myself shuffling indecisively at the head of the food queue, not sure whether to dig into Mma D’s piles of boiled chicken in front of me, or just simply settle for the standard soya, which the kitchen staff had taken to preparing as a stop-gap measure ‘for the rastas’, I would over time take my vegetarianism to even newer heights by finally throwing the eggs and fish out of the kitchen window – essentially rendering me an ultra veg, or vegan, in the process.


And still talking about fish, I had been told by none other than Ras Bupe, a dreadlocked Jamaican émigré and one my rasta friends and interlocutors in Dar, that it was ‘actually a very dirty animal’ that absorbed all manner of impurities under water – despite it being eaten in virtually all parts of Tanzania since the country is not only coastal but is also home to many inland water sources, rivers and lakes.


Then, years afterwards, while living temporarily outside Botswana as a foreign student, I would find being a vegetarian one of the simplest things one could ever do – even though my housemates, who from other African countries, would swear to God that they could not, in all honesty, reconcile being vegetarian and being African, at the same time!


Around the same time, too, almost everyone at home was on my case, turning up the pressure on me, my dad even asking my ‘better enlightened’ brother-in-law to help to make me understand that ‘man could not live without meat’ and that you needed beef in order to develop strong bones and a sound mind!

In this, they were apparently not alone.

For in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (first published in 1884), Marx’s old friend and confidante, Friedrich Engels, had stated quite bluntly that "The superior development of Aryans and Semites is, perhaps, attributable to the copious meat and milk diet of both races, more especially to the favorable influence of such food on the growth of children. As a matter of fact, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico who live on an almost purely vegetarian diet have a smaller brain than the Indians in the lower stage of barbarism who eat more meat and fish.” (Italics mine).


But finding it increasingly difficult to tie together a solid and steady vegetarian regimen in a new and shared setting, and with my shoulder length ‘dreadlocks’ to also tag along (and feed), I was massively famished and undernourished, weighing only 45 kg on the bathroom scale – which I would grow to dislike.


And, finally coming home to settle, in the dreary late nineties, my choosiness on matters of food and diet began to slowly fizzle out as I came upon and re-entered that shared, traditional cuisine that I had grown on and quit some seven years earlier – arguably in favour of something healthier, more ethical and ‘spiritual’, to use a popular cliché!

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WeekendLife

200,000 Members of International Church Hold Virtual Prayer Service for Covid-19

22nd September 2020
200,000

After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.

On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.

The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.

Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.

The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.

At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.

“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”

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WeekendLife

AFRIMMA nominates Vee Mampeezy

22nd September 2020
Vee-Mampeezy

The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.

The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.

The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.

However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.

Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.

Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.

“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.

“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”

Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.

Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.

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WeekendLife

Miss Earth Botswana catwalks to save the environment

22nd September 2020
MISS EARTH

Miss Earth Botswana is an annual local environmental-themed beauty pageant competition promoting environmental awarenessconservation and social responsibility. The reigning Queen dedicated her year to promoting specific projects and often addressing issues concerning the environment.

The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.

Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.

Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)

Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.

“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”

For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”

“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.

Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.

“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.

When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.

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