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Tsabong today

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Travelling westward off the Trans-Kalahari Highway, the road meanders through the dry Kgalagadi sands, past Werda and Omaweneno villages. After two camel parks that sandwich it, the road then slopes into some modern structures that the eye cannot fail to see.

Welcome to Tsabong. With a population of about 42 000 people, Tsabong is the capital of Kgalagadi District. The village has developed rapidly to have modern shopping centres, primary hospital, hotels and lodges as well as banks. Nonetheless, it still retains its rural outlook.  

Like any other village in Botswana, Tsabong also developed from humble beginnings. 

It started as a settlement for people fleeing from tribal wars hence the name Tsabong. The main tribes that currently reside in Tsabong are Batlhware, Bakgothu, Bangologa and Baherero.

According to one elderly woman, Ms Otshegeng Tsietso, the name is pronounced Tshabong which literally means a place where people found refugee. Tsietso says the village started at Maubelo, 2km from where it is now. 

Old structures of yesteryear Tsabong include wells, a jail, district commissioner’s office, police camp and a number of roundavels. The village also boasts an airstrip and the second oldest meteorological station in Botswana.

Ms Tsietso says in the olden days, cars were a luxury and police patrolled the village on camel backs while the main economic activity for the residents was pastoral farming in the hardveld south of the Kalahari dunes. 

She says the village has developed rapidly and today it has almost all government departments and parastatals and people do not have to travel long distances for services. 

Tsabong has four primary schools, a number of clinics, primary hospital and other service centres because of the growing population.

Meanwhile, Kgosi Simon Lorekang of Maubelo village says the only development in Tsabong then was a Motlopi tree where the villagers paid their taxes, a two roomed school with a thatch roof and district commissioner’s office. 

Kgosi Lorekang says the villagers bought their groceries and other necessities from mobile tuck shops owned by the Afrikaans speaking people from South Africa who visited on a monthly basis. 

Traditionally, he adds, the villagers depended largely on the livestock and arable farming for a livelihood.  They also survived through hunting wild animals and fruits.

Today life has changed and the village is growing at a fast pace because of an influx of people from other parts of the country. 

“We are happy with the developments but we want more such as a senior school and stadium,” pleads Kgosi Lorekang.

Meanwhile, the area MP, Mr John Toto, also acknowledges that the village has become an administrative centre for Kgalagadi in terms of developments but believes that more could be done to develop it.

 He says government has promised to construct a universal secondary school to admit students from form one to five. Mr Toto decries the status quo in schools in that their computer systems are outdated.

Nonetheless, Tsabong is today a thriving tourist town as the Kgalagadi area is best known for unique desert animals, birds, reptiles and rodents, especially the black maned Kalahari lions and gemsbok. The area is a semi-arid wilderness with bright red sand dunes. 

The landscape typically consists of saltpans, open plains to flat bushveld which becomes more dense towards the south. 

Mr Toto says while tourism is coming up in the area Batswana are slow venture into the industry. However, he appreciated government efforts to promote tourism especially through the establishment of the Camel Park in the village, Khawa Dune Challenge and cultural festival.

Regarding economic activities in the area, Mr Toto decries unemployment for majority of residents. Besides the wholesale businesses, supermarkets and bars, nothing provides sustainable economic activity.

The residents also do not have a market for their livestock, says Mr Toto but is optimistic that the Kgalagadi District Council has ability to transform the village to greater heights were it to service the central business district. Ends

 

Source : BOPA

Author : Esther Mmolai

Location : TSABONG

Event : Interview

Date : Apr 01 Tue,2014

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