I have always tended to write-off the concept of a tourist bus tour in as far as Gaborone is concerned is only valuable for those who just came into the city. Yet recently I tried it out. What the tour provided was exact the opposite of what I initially believed. It was after-all fun.
It was almost a case of back to class – re-education about Gaborone. I got a better understanding and overview of what our city has to offer, taking note of particular places of interest. One such place was Old Naledi. Most outsiders would drive right through this blue collar community of ramshackle houses and dusty streets without stopping on their way to much fancy places.
Old Naledi, or Zola as it is affectionately known, is Gaborone’s largest and oldest township. The settlement bears the hallmark traits of a rehabilitated shantytown. It lies on the periphery of the city, with the original settlement having been characterised by informal and unguided urban planning with a near absence of a formal street grid, sanitation network and electricity. The township has a large population of poor residents some of whom live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials.
As we weave our way around Zola, exploring the many facets of this fascinating township, our tour guide Tebogo Kgaodi, who is also the owner of Itse-Makeba will ensure that our journey is fun and memorable. He shares his knowledge on how Zola came about, how it grew and how its residents impacted on local history. Tebogo is very passionate about his work; he does not take you to the place just for you to see it; he immerses you wholeheartedly in its life and its history, developments and empathizes strongly with its people. The place has since undergone a major facelift with the provision of the essential infrastructure. There are now a tarred roads and water drainage, water reticulation and street lighting. Some of the plots were expropriated to give way to provision of these amenities and facilities such as playing grounds and taxi rank which were hitherto not provided for in the past.
Township tour are becoming increasingly more popular in other countries as visitors look for more authentic experience away from game reserves and the usual beautiful scenery. It brings a portion of Botswana’s tourism sector to the poorest of its people. Local restaurants, Shebeens and craft-men alike benefit financially from this kind of tours. Possibly more important economic benefit is that this brand of tourism opens visitor’s eyes to the reality of living conditions of people. At the same time it shows a place not just poverty stricken but also full of energy, culture and hope.