Radio, TV and journalism in Botswana is dominated by men, and only a hand full of females occupy significant positions, be it behind the scenes in managerial roles or behind the decks as a show host or producer- or both.
Few names do pop up when females in the media industry are revealed: radio host Khumo Kgwaadira ‘MissGeeKays’, news anchors Lesego Kgajwana and Sethunya Maele, are those few famous radio voices. Then there is Neo ‘Skillo’ Aabobe, who treads the sports territory- mostly seen as a man’s place. Skillo came into the industry to tackle issues of diversity and sexism in the field.
For many people, Skillo being on radio was just her on a wild goose chase. To some extent, one might have believed that to be true, because, even in sport, males take the lead. It is emotionally straining to be knocking on every door chasing opportunities, especially as a young woman, only to be given a cold shoulder.
However, no pain no gain. Occasionally these stumbling blocks are a learning curve. In fact, they should motivate everyone to break glass ceilings. Being on radio is not a piece of cake, says Gabz FM Sport and Agriculture show host Skillo.
This week, WeekendLife caught up with the bubbly and busy radio host after her morning show, to shed some light on how she climbed up the ladder of success in the industry, the challenges and how COVID-19 crashed radio.
Skillo narrated how she started doing radio back in high school.
“I had a friend who was on radio then, Mcrenko, who hosted Kasi Lam Lao Bitsa on Yarona FM. I used to do gig guides for him. We’d both been radio lovers and felt it would be cool to go to the University where I was a regular debate guest. I finished University and started working at Duma FM as a news anchor. I then became a producer before joining Gabz FM as a sport anchor, producing and presenting my own Farmers Diary for three consecutive years.”
Skillo opened up to WeekendLife and stressed that it was really an easy road becoming a radio personality.
There has been a lot of learning on the job and some tough learning curves. “Sometimes the show doesn’t go according to how you have planned it. A guest would agree to do the show and turn down the request few minutes before the show airs and as much as that is a huge inconvenience, the show has to go on. At the same time, you gain such as wealth of experience by settings things up on your own,” she said.
Sexual intimidation and favours are also part of the reasons why some if not most women find it difficult to make it on radio. Most young radio hosts are caught between a rock and a hard place, and many fall prey to offering up their bodies in exchange to make it behind the mic. Skillo revealed that; ‘‘the most common challenge is where people feel entitled to sexual practices with you and undermining your potential.”
Botswana Musicians Union also shared the same sentiments recently. The group appointed the Women’s Wing to deal with issues of sexual abuse against female musicians. Apparently, some individuals within various organizations solicit and demand sexual favours before they could engage these musicians, something that has been going on for quite a stretch now.
Nevertheless, the Farmers Diary choices, she tells WeekendLife, are influenced by the strong will for inclusion, to have guests who are usually unrepresented in the agriculture sector in Botswana.
“This is an agriculture show that focuses on promoting and deliberating on issues affecting the sector. There are young active and determined farmers who we get to interview, share insights and lock ideas together on how the industry can be revamped and more youth encouraged to venture into farming. Clearly, farming is underrated but could produce the next batch of billionaires coming from Botswana. So the show helps in that context”
Having done radio and TV, Skillo is also a corporate MC. It is a rollercoaster side-hustle as agents also demand sexual favours, just for your quote to get approved. Skillo stressed that “you also need to know the calibre of people you will be engaged to work with at the time and when that takes a drastic turn, you ought to control the situation. It’s all eyes on you. It can be exhausting.”
With COVID-19 taking over, radio has been equally affected. The pandemic led to retrenchments, change in normal radio schedules and operations, Skillo was no exception to the ripple effects of the pandemic as she saw her beloved shows go down the drain. Nonetheless, she is currently temporarily involved in a mini-show with Gabz FM.
Almost every year, Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) attracts hullabaloo over its annual music awards. This time around, it was not only that. There has been much noise around compliance, Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development involvement in the affairs of this organisation, as well as the contentious sponsorship from the Department of Broadcasting Services (DBS).
Following a four-year hiatus, BOMU awards found themselves being the talk of the town due to unfair practices some artists claim clouded the non-complying organisation. These are serious accusations that BOMU has since rubbished as deliberate actions intended to tarnish its reputation.
Some disgruntled artists recently took to the streets to protest against these practices. However, these are not subscribing members of BOMU. Before being cut short by the Police, these artists demanded that the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Tumiso Rakgare step down immediately. They claim that Rakgare has failed his mandate.
On the other hand, they demanded that the Youth Ministry reverse the P500 000 it has splashed on the BOMU awards, and the money be split among artists. A lead protester in these activities, Rhumba artist General Tuco, told Weekendlife that BOMU management should halt the awards and instead clean the organisation’s dirty laundry.
He further indicated that they would be dropping a petition at the DBS offices, urging the group to revoke the P1.5 million sponsorship it has awarded BOMU. Because these discontented artists claim that BOMU is non-compliant, they will also be marching to the Registrar of Societies to express their grievances.
In an interview this week, General Tuco said they are still engaging their attorney to formalise their protest and give them a way forward. The Police deny them a permit to hold their rally. According to information gathered last week, the artists were arrested and released the same day and asked to apply for a protest permit.
BOMU PRESIDENT SPEAKS
BOMU President Phemelo Lesokwane told a media member on Wednesday that “We have seen people on social media dragging our name on the mud as BOMU. They say we are non-compliant, corrupt and unfair. When we get to see who these people are, they are not our members. They call themselves artists, but as legalised agents of artists in Botswana, we do not know them, neither do we know what they are talking about. We condemn these acts.”
Lesokwane rubbished allegations that BOMU is not compliant. “We see journalists giving these guys who masquerade as artists more prime time for them to tarnish our name. But they do not have the evidence. BOMU is compliant, and we have all the documents. We also have verified documents from the Registrar of Societies, who are our key stakeholders.”
Talking about being backbitten, Lesokwane claims that government officials from the Registrar of Societies are promoting what unregistered artists are making noise about in the corridors. Some of these officers fed the Youth Minister Rakgare wrong information about BOMU. BOMU has much work to do in-house.
Further, Lesokwane revealed that when they took over the office, BOMU was mugged some of its finances. Investigations are ongoing to retrieve such monies, he said. As if that is not enough cleaning, Lesokwane has a headache dealing with another faction dubbed BW Artists, which represents artists in the Northside of the country.
“If you could look into the management of this organisation, you would question their interests. Two of them are politicians. Once they fail primary elections, they come back into the music industry and cause chaos. I always say I am going to fight with everything I have together with my team to make sure that we protect artists in Botswana.”
JOURNALISTS FINGERED IN THE BOMU MESS
BOMU President Lesokwane has accused journalists of being biased and unfair to his organisation. He stressed that BOMU depends on members of the press to help rebuild the dying Botswana music industry. “Most articles about our artists speak negatively about them. Foreign artists are always given priority instead of our local artists, but we value journalists as our equally significant stakeholders. We can grow this industry together.”
These media reports, Lesokwane said, have forced stakeholders to withdraw their sponsorships towards the BOMU awards, slated for October 2021. At times they are required to answer for hearsays that are not accurate. He reiterated that BOMU has nothing to hide as it is compliant.
BOMU MUSIC AWARDS CONSULTANT SPEAKS
BOMU Music Awards Consultant Seabelo Modibe has been topping the charts for a long good time. His appointment as a consultant was notorious as critics felt his company was relatively premature at the time of appointment.
He joined the BOMU get-together at the time the awards were still distressed by the hubbub. Many asked if he would manage the heat, but clearly, Modibe is having a hard time. He, however, stressed that BOMU is open to criticism.
“Lot of people say BOMU has been given money to waste. That is not precise. It has sold its product, its broadcasting rights. They were sold for P1.5 million to the DBS. Our contract is for a year, and we will be going back to them in December. MYSC has acquired what we call commercial rights. These are rights that someone buys to promote their mandate. MYSC seeks to promote local music using BOMU awards.”
Mpho Donald was undoubtedly the IT girl of the then tedious beauty industry. She loved looking pretty and smelling good. Of course, this is every girl’s dream, but making a living out of it doesn’t flash into many of these girls’ dreams.
Besides, it used to be a lot more common for the majority of entrepreneurs to be male in the past. However, in recent years the number of female entrepreneurs in the world has been on the rise. She is from a family of business-minded people. Both parents were entrepreneurs, but that is not why Donald is a powerful woman in this entrepreneurial space. At one point, life threw lemons at her, and she made lemonade.
At the age of 38, Donald has been to South Africa more than once. These frequent hazardous trips at the time were to acquire secret elements into being a real hustler. She would get robbed, risk being raped or hijacked, but she survived.
“At one point, life got too difficult to an extent where I found myself doing piece jobs for other people just so I earn something to buy toiletry, food and clothes even. I did laundry, and in the entire process, I got tired. I had to think about business, and it was easy because I come from a line of people who believe in trading. Somehow I got motivated, but I never wanted to work for anyone in life.”
Before embarking on shadowing missions in South Africa, Donald would go around the capital city, hunting for customers. Kgale Mews, Commerce Park are urban offices for various companies, but this did not restrict her from knocking, selling makeup, jewellery and accessories.
She was known for this particular hustle in all the offices. Some people will get exhausted because of her irritating products, but that did not stop her from acquiring a tiny spot in Main Mall. She pitched her gazibo, and her next items on display were plus size women’s outfits. These women are often overlooked, especially on beauty pageantry. The controversial Miss Plus Size Botswana pageant never saw the light of the day ever again.
“I guess that was after I saw the pains of plus-sized women when it came to shopping for something to wear. Being a plus-size woman made it easy for me to penetrate this space. I modelled all my clothes and advertised them on social media.”
Social media opened many doors for so many entrepreneurs. Donald can attest to that. She told Weekendlife that “People started coming in to buy both makeup and the clothes. Then, later on, I started selling second-hand clothes and while at it, I moved to my first shop. I think for me taking risks has never really been any scary because I convinced myself that in any case, I fall, I will rise again.”
“So I went boldly into everything that I could do at the time. I would travel to South Africa to places I never knew. I got my stock there, and even when I got robbed, I knew I would eventually reach my destination. It surely wasn’t an easy walk in a park, but I persevered,” she said.
From her mini boutique, Donald went full force into buying and supplying second-hand clothes. “As the COVID-19 lockdowns hit us, I was busy at work pushing the idea on mini bails and second-hand clothes. So it came down to my mind that I have to know what to sell in which season. It was a trial and error kind of hustle, but once you get a grip of it, you begin to sail smoothly.”
Donald currently supplies small businesses across the country. She gets to enjoy a good relationship with her customers, who are in other countries even. “It took me much effort, commitment and loyalty to be where I am today. I guess I could now boldly say that hard work is beginning to pay off. I have started knocking on bigger doors for partnerships, and I believe that if I can get them, beauty plus size clothing will be elevated to the next level.”
Mpho Donald is originally from Serowe. She studied her O and A-levels in Zimbabwe at the Specis College. Still, in Zimbabwe, she enrolled and qualified as a Travel and Tourism expert. She said in an interview that she will be venturing into other hustles too but couldn’t reveal which ones now. Donald is optimistic that everything will be ready and served in 2022.
After being announced as the next Miss Global Botswana, social media was ablaze, and curiosity was flown all over on whether Sakshi Bhargava is a native Motswana or the crown has incongruously been given to a non-citizen. Many Miss Global Botswana fans were breakneck in assuming that the queen is Indian, probably because the parents are of Indian descent and she looks Indian.
In a similar incident early this May, Miss Universe Canada Nova Stevens was chastened for being black. The beauty queen admitted that she’s disappointed with the behaviour of some pageant fans from other countries, noting that their hate takes away from the fun and enjoyment of the pageant.
“Is it that difficult to spread love instead of hate? No one is saying you have to support all contestants. All we’re saying is that you support your delegate without bringing others down,” she said. She called out racist comments on her Instagram criticizing her appearance. Stevens is of Sudanese descent. The remarks included: “Akala ko engkanto (I thought she was a mythical creature),” and “Hindi naman sa hinuhusgahan ko siya pero natatakot ako, promise. Parang hindi siya tao.” (I’m not judging her, but I’m terrified. It’sIt’s like she’s not a human being.)
Miss Global Botswana Bhargava told Weekendlife that she was born and brought up in Francistown, 19-years ago. She started her primary school in John Mackenzie and did her A-levels in Francistown, where she served as Deputy Head girl.
Her parents, she said, moved to Botswana from India in 1988. Technically, they have been in Botswana for 33 years. That then means they are Batswana by citizenship. According to data from the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration, and Gender Affairs, for a citizen of another country to qualify for Botswana citizenship, that person must satisfy few conditions.
The applicant has been resident in Botswana for a continuous period of 12 months immediately to the date of their application for a naturalization certificate. They should have been resident in Botswana for aggregate periods of not less than ten years during the 12 years immediately preceding the 12 months prescribed above. The applicant shall renounce the other country’s citizenship.
“Being born and brought up in Botswana, I have grown up learning Botswana culture, understanding Setswana, and I pride myself in being a Motswana by birth but Indian by race. We were lovingly welcomed into a very diverse nation. They fell in love with Botswana, and from then, they knew that this was the place where they wanted to birth and raise their children such that we grew up knowing this peaceful nation to be our home.”
“Our national flag, the black and white colors symbolize collaboration between people of diverse races and culture and a belief in racial cooperation and equality. I am proudly one of the first representations of the diversity our country has especially in the pageantry industry and I am fully equipped to represent our country.”
Bhargava further indicated that the Botswana culture is more of her identity than anything else as she has always known Botswana to be her home. “One should not be judged by race but should rather be embraced by character.”
BEAUTY WITH A PURPOSE
Having started pageantry at the age of 16, Bhargava has been a beauty queen with a purpose. She has worn two crowns too. In 2016, she was crowned Junior Miss Botswana 2nd princess and Miss Teen Hope 1st princess in 2017. During the past few years, she has also been pursuing ambassadorship with few companies.
“I became the brand ambassador of three local brands: the Diamond Pageantry Academy, BushT Fashions, and Em’s beauty Spa. She founded a non-governmental organization called Able Hearts Foundation. This is an NGO that strives to create equality for people living with disabilities.
“It runs with a slogan dubbed ”We are all equal in the fact that we are all different”. I believed that I am a true representation of what a beauty queen can help the community and how we have the ability to make the world a better place,” she told WeekendLife in an exclusive interview this week.
She started Able Hearts Foundation in 2017 after she realized that people faced with disabilities were ridiculed and made fun of, and, “I knew that as a teenager, I needed to stand up for this community and educate my peers on how to treat people faced with disabilities as equal in the society. For over 4 years now, I have worked with the Francistown Center for the Deaf Education, the Lephoi Center for the visually impaired and the Mochudi Resource Center for the blind.”
The newly crowned queen said she has worked with many more children living with disabilities and made it her mandate to nurture their talents and empower them to the point where they know and trust that they are equally important.
ATTENDING MISS GLOBAL IN INDONESIA
Miss Global organization has announced through their Instagram account that the competition is back, and a new edition is set to be held this September in Bali, Indonesia, with more than 80 delegates expected to participate.
Bhargava will be representing Botswana at the beauty competition, and she is ready to bring the crown home. “I entered the pageant industry at a very young age and my biggest dream was to represent Botswana on an international stage.
I applied to Miss Global organization as Botswana’s representative to hope that I would get a chance to truly showcase all of the hard work I have been putting into my ambitions of putting Botswana on the global map in allowedy. I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to live one of my biggest dreams.”