A president, some mishaps, Zimbabwe and German christmas cake (Stollen) for tea
Gaborone Travel Blog› entry 10 of 21 › view all entries
It is Wednesday, April 30: I just returned from the two days workshop on â€śAccess to Justice: Feasability of sustainable Legal Aid and Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems in
Let me start from the beginning: On Tuesday morning, I headed to the office by foot to be there around 7:30 AM so the centreâ€™s driver would have a chance of getting us to the venue,
At work everyone was already busy and the director told me the whole schedule for the workshop had been rearranged and by the time weâ€™d get there, the president would already be speaking and we wouldnâ€™t be allowed in. She said this happens all the time in
We arrived at around 8:10 AM and the president was not there. I was introduced to a couple of people, among them the Attourney General of
The president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama (picture here), arrived and we were all asked to stand for his entry. He is lean, sporty person, who looks a bit like a boy. The choir of the Attourney Generalâ€™s office (yes, they have a choir!) sang the national anthem, a solemn piece, you can listen to it here. It was very moving to hear the whole auditorium joining in, stupendous voices. The president then opened the workshop with a remarkable speech that showed his interest in achieving results and admonishing the participants as follows:
â€śâ€¦To return to the general subject of workshops, let me sound a word of caution. In some quarters, a certain amount of cynicism and weariness has set in among Batswana, that such workshops and meetings are wasteful talk shops for public servants and professionals who are out of touch with reality. I therefore hope that you will do everything in your power to dispel such perceptions, by developing realistic and action-oriented recommendationsâ€¦.â€ť
I found that quite remarkable, because having attended many conferences over the years, I oftentimes left them asking myself what the result, what the achievement of it was.
Well, to say this right away, the first day was not really different from other workshops I had seen. But, this was going to change on the second day.
After the president, the minister of justice and the attourney general had spoken, we adjourned for tea. While the others were leaving the ballroom, I stayed on for a bit and talked with my colleagues and then left the hall for tea. Everyone was standing around in groups and I approached the tea stand. No one was there, so I asked an employee there to give me a cup of tea. She hesitantly obliged and when I turned around with my cup of tea in my hands and looked at the crowd, I saw no one else was having teaâ€¦I approached my colleague Mary and asked whether I had done anything wrong. She said, no, no, Batswana donâ€™t like tea very much. I asked her whether I should have waited for the president to leave, and she said, no, she doesnâ€™t think so. Then she did something which I thought was awfully nice: she got herself a cup of tea also and then we stood somewhere a bit detached from the rest and hidden from view. When we saw the presidential motorcade leave the compound there was something else noticeable: everyone was hastily approaching the tea standsâ€¦another faux pas. No one seems to have taken it against me, but still, I would have preferred not to commit it.
The meeting proceeded with speakers from
I had a chance to talk with the Executice Secretary of the Law Society of Botswana, Patricia. They are compiling a reference book on different legal aid schemes and we talked about the possibility of me writing a piece on the German system, which, based on the civil law system, is quite different from the common law approach with legal aid boards etc. We will have to work out the details, but it would be really nice if I could be of assistance.
I skipped dinner for a ride with my German flatmate
Today, the second day of the workshop, we listened to more speakers. During the first tea break I could hardly contain myself from laughing out loud because they served German Christmas cake (Stollen, for those who are familiar with it) with the tea. I think I never had stollen in April before. It was delicious, but felt quite strange. After the break we were subdivided into working groups and were to present recommendations and remedies for a legal aid scheme. I participated in the group that focused on the inclusion of non-governmental actors and it was a lively discussion. I think this really enhanced the whole workshop, because we came up with some serious recommendations and so did the other groups.
For lunch, Mma Mtunzi and I were joined by two extraordinary people: Ms. Mary Chisanga of the Southern African Legal Assistance Network based in
At the official photo op on the lawn of the hotel, I got to stand beside a very humble man from
The workshop concluded with closing remarks by the chief justice of
I am to march along with the paralegal staff of Ditshwanelo propagating domestic workersâ€™ rights tomorrow for a Labour day marchâ€¦the start is at 6:30 AM! OMYG. I really thought about declining, but on the other hand this might be an interesting way of getting to know more people and better know my fellow workers. Also, they promised me two T-shirts. How could I have said no to that? J
How am I feeling tonight? Pretty exhausted but thrilled to have been at this workshop and to have met Mary and Clifford. There was so much to absorb and I might need some time to process it in my mind. I am really happy with my colleagues and how Ditshwanelo works and where they are active. But looking at the watch now, itâ€™s already ten past nine and I need to get up at half past five tomorrow morningâ€¦L So, good night unto you allâ€¦