In case you have been wondering...

Gaborone Travel Blog

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…whether I am still working or just travelling:


Yes, I am still working, my full five days a week, 7:30 AM until 5:00 PM.


Work is quite challenging currently because I am working on four projects at the same time.


My initial project, the revision of a booklet on labour law (a subject that I had successfully been able to ignore in Germany) is still pending. I have written some updates and addendums but the revision itself is still on my desk. I will be able to finish it by the end of my term here.


Another project that you are already familiar with is the revision of the Botswana HIV/AIDS  Charter, the reason why I went to Francistown. The project is ongoing and we have scheduled two more workshops here in Gaborone for June 25 and July 3. I pushed for the inclusion of not only established HIV and AIDS organisations but also doctors, orphanages and schools. I hope they will bring added value, apart from the normal agendas that NGOs tend to follow. Will see how that works. Since my boss, Mma Mtunzi and the other paralegal in the office, Florah will be away all next week, the organisation mainly rests with me and another volunteer, who, thankfully, is very dedicated: she is only 22 years old, a Motswana and her name is Beauty.


The third project I inherited from my Dutch colleague Marcella who has left the office. It is quite a big project that initially I found very appealing. The Southern African Legal Assistance Network (SALAN -, an NGO that covers NGOs in 9 countries all over Southern Africa is preparing a report on the “Right to Food”, that is enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which most countries in Southern Africa have ratified, except Botswana and Mozambique. SALAN is undertaking a study on how well the member countries are prepared to provide quality food to its citizens and what disaster plans are in place. With the current price hikes and the food crisis that is much more evident here than it might be in Europe or North America, this is a very valuable endeavour.

The project had been assigned to Marcella because I was already quite busy. She worked for 3 weeks on it. Unfortunately she was only able to do some Internet research, which did not produce many results (which is normal in a country that is by far not as Internet-savvy as our societies). She did not go to any library or talk to anybody so far. This leaves us with many, many, many questions that we were presented with unanswered. I was a bit frustrated when I learned about that. Another Motswana volunteer, Jonathan, is helping me with this project because it is way too much in my rather tight timeframe here. Every free minute is currently filled with this project.


The fourth and last project I am involved in is a get out the vote campaign for Zimbabwe. Botswana is host to tens of thousand, maybe even hundreds of thousand Zimbabwean refugees. They are not allowed to vote by absentee ballot, so in order for them to make their vote count they have to go back to Zim for the run-off election on June 27. Our centre is a member of the “Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Committee for Zimbabwe” (BOCISCOZ), and our Activism team that is headed by the director has been very much involved in drafting this campaign. Currently, 20 trained field workers are going through the streets in Gaborone, and starting tomorrow in Francistown to educate Zimbabweans that they have to go home and vote for the election. We found donors to pay for the train rides to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe for as many people as the money can cover. Our initial aim was 800 people. After two days of campaigning (and 10 more to go), already 1,200 people registered to go. It is a tremendous success.

We have had meeting over meeting over meeting with the leaders of the Zimbabwean groups here, discussing money and logistics. Most of them are great to deal with, very fact oriented. Others are very emotional, though, and it is hard to deal with them when they just keep talking and worrying about themselves. I am learning many lessons in Southern African deliberations, which take much much longer than I am used to and contain a lot of talking without getting anywhere. At times, these meetings can anger me greatly for sometimes it shines through that even a new leadership in Zim might not be that felt frustrating, just too much politics in an effort that is there to help people go and vote, for whomever they want. I talked to the director about it the other day and she told me that all we do is get out the vote. We have to balance many interests and try to just stay as neutral as we can. It is very hard sometimes. Last night, while we were bickering over money equivalent to 500 euros for hours and one particular member was going on and on about his achievements and how he is being mistreated by the donors and eventually us, it was very very very hard to keep my mouth shut. I am telling me these are singular people, because I also experience very dedicated members of the group that are not just talking about themselves but want to get this thing done.

It looks like we can send more than 3,000 people and Heaven knows how many more will go with their own money because they have been made aware that many of their countrymen are going, too. They are going into a very unsafe future, because nobody knows what will happen if Mugabe loses and is not stepping down. The first elections have been so rigged! I don’t know why everybody expects this to be a fairer election than the first one. SADC, the regional organization of states, is sending 500 election monitors…for more than 8,000 polling stations. It is ridiculous.

But it is very intriguing to be working on this issue and I am thankful that Mma Mogwe, the director has involved me…feels very much at the brink of issues.


Add this to the current living condition I am experiencing with sharing not only a room with Johann, the other German, but even a bed, because the room is too small for anyone to sleep on the floor. We had to leave the guest house about 10 days ago and are now staying in the intern apartment at the other end of the city, which means long transports in the morning and evening…it’s not very easy…Hopefully we can be back in the guest house by the weekend, each with his own room!


Just for fun, I have done a slightly exaggerated schedule for a “normal” day these days (since the Euro 2008 started):


06:20 AM:      Johann’s alarm clock is playing it’s party music – I am normally already awake, but still in my sleeping bag. Johann gets up and rushes to the shower.

06:35 AM:      My alarm is ringing, gentler than Johann’s. I hear that Stefan, the other intern in the apartment, is up, too and sneaking into the bath right after Johann. Darn, now I have to wait another 15 minutes.

06:55 AM:      The bathroom is free. I hop under the shower, get dressed and say good-bye to the guys (no breakfast for me).

07:10 AM       I am standing at the bus stop to board a combi bus. Most are already filled to the rim. I manage to squeeze in and am dropped off about 1 km from work. I pay my 3 Pula and walk to the office.

07:32 AM       Arriving at the office, I join the kitchen chitchat for a few minutes. I am greeted by a co-worker by “Hey, I saw you on tellie over the weekend! You were with the Zebras in Mozambique, right?” I am surprised, but pleased; the rest of the office has seen me, too.

07:45 AM       I am entering my freezing office, start the computer and heater, and also start the heaters in my co-worker’s offices.

07:50 AM       Checking my emails and Kivafriends.

08:02 AM       I start working on the food rights project.

08:26 AM       Lies, the other Dutch intern, comes and we have a quick chat.

08:45 AM       I am going for my second cup of coffee, which is desperately needed by now.

09:01 AM       Feels like my brain starts working…

09:36 AM       Jonathan drops by for a meeting about the foods rights project. We discuss issues until 10:00 AM, then he wants my assistance in helping procure a scholarship by German organizations. I am trying to help, but cannot really…

10:04 AM       The director comes by and asks me to prepare minutes of a meeting that I did not attend. She tells me what needs to be in there, I am trying to follow and prepare a report.

10:59 AM       Mma Mtunzi, my superior, calls an immediate meeting to discuss the way forward on the HIV/AIDS charter. We meet with three colleagues and go through what needs to be done.

11:45 AM       The meeting ends in disarray because we have strayed from the initial topic and now try to solve other problems in the office.

11:47 AM       While mind is directing itself towards lunch break, I am communicating with our deaf and mute gardener Mothusi, a funny guy.

11:55 AM       Mma Mtunzi remembers that I have to draft a budget for the workshops…which I had successfully ignored so far…

12:15 PM       The director calls and asks me to attend a Zimbabwe meeting at 03:00 PM and to devise a flyer as well as a questionnaire for that meeting.

12:30 PM       I am kicked out for my lunch break. The office virtually closes down. I am heading to the guest house to start a wash load, because I am running out of clothes. Johann calls to confirm that he got tickets for the Botswana football match on Saturday! YES!

01:30 PM       Back at work to do some emailing…

02:00 PM       I am working on the fliers and the questionnaires. Have to go through the content ten times with different people.

03:00 PM       The meeting has been delayed to 03:45 PM.
Beauty, another intern, informs me that most of the 40 fax invitations for the AIDS workshops that I had prepared yesterday went through…except for 10. Either fax machines are not working (very common in government offices) or there are simply none or the secretaries don’t know how to use them. She is following up on these. Thank goodness.

03:06 PM       Mma Mtunzi aks about my progress regarding the labour law booklet…while I try to defend myself, she bursts out in laughter. She knows I am juggling too many issues right now and just wanted to tease me. She really is a very good boss and we get along greatly. Without our chats and laughs throughout the day, things would be harder here.

03:21 PM       I am kicked out of my office, the paralegal conference room, because Boitumelo, another paralegal, is seeing a group of 5 clients and they need the room. Since there is no other space currently, I am going over to the Dutch interns for my fourth coffee of the day. In kitchen, I am being advised by our housekeeper, Mma Catherine, that this is not good for me. She also promises me to pay me back 4 euros she still owes me for more than 4 weeks now.

03:45 PM       The meeting with Zimbabweans starts. Our administrator and I are in it, the director and the other activisim officer are trying to acquire money. The meeting goes on and on…I am more than once biting my tongue not to say something. At 5:00 PM, normally my closing time, I am losing my nerves and simply start suggesting whatever comes to my mind to solve the impasse we have reached. Some are receptive to my ideas, some aren’t. What’s new?

05:30 PM       The Germany match is coming up at 6:00 PM. I need to find a way out of this meeting.

05:35 PM       Luckily, my 84 year old grandmother is calling just now. I use the opportunity to sneek out. When I return, I tell them I have another meeting at 6:00 PM. I know, I should have been honest, but there seemed no other way out…

05:45 PM       My taxi arrives to take me to the bar that is showing football.

05:58 PM        I arrive at the Linga Longa bar, Johann and Stefan are already there. The anthems have been sung, but I am there at least for the beginning of the match...we watch both games over some beers and pizza and I am in bed by 11:45 PM.

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photo by: Niki-Travelfan