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Thamaga: NO LONGER ‘KOSETHOSETENG’

What does an owl, a crow and the scaly feathered finch have in common? They are all birds. And what do the feathered creatures have in common with humans? If we take out the fact they are living things eat, procreate and have blood flowing in their bodies, nothing really.

Take the owl for example. Many owls are crepuscular or nocturnal, and come eventide or nightfall they come out to hunt, preying on other animals.

They ‘hoot’ out to others, but can also hiss, screech, scream and purr. The birds are extremely territorial and can attack anything and anyone they choose to attack in their territory. 

A very different bird, the crow, is omnivores and will eat just about anything, including dead animals and garbage. It is a smart bird, and so far is the only one known to be capable of using different tools in search of food. In fact the crow is the third most intelligent creature after humans and apes – even then only some apes. For example, a crow will know to place nuts on the way of a small oncoming vehicle so the vehicle can drive over and crack the nut - it knows the bigger vehicles will ground the nuts to useless powder! A crow will even use a wire to pull food out of a glass or bottle that is too small to allow its beak in!

A crow is the wiliest and cleverest of all birds.

That is why, no matter how you try to trap the bird or attempt to hit it with your vehicle, you will fail almost always. Crows, you will agree are a great nuisance to us humans.

But there are other more adorable smaller birds, such as the scaly feathered finch, otherwise known as letsetsenkane by locals. But be careful. This small bird’s life is a mess. You want to really understand that, visit its nest. You will find an untidy mass of grass stems and grass seed heads carelessly rolled into something akin to a rugby ball.

Visit the nest again in winter and you will find several of the birds huddled together. Come morning and they wake you up as they flirt and fight. They are a very cantankerous lot.  Up to 20 can be in one colony. They can be real nuisance wrapped up in those small bodies.

Whether it is deliberate or by coincidence a group or groups of unruly and ill-mannered young women and men in Thamaga adopted the names of these three bird species. While Magakabe (crows) and Matsetsenkane have only been mentioned very few times, the merubise (owls) are the most notorious and infamous. The nocturnal gangs beat up people –women and men alike – and have even murdered innocent people.

So bad is the situation that at some stage, members of the Zion Christian church came to the village kgotla to offer prayer, hoping that the ills and the evils that besieged the village would go away.

That, however, did not produce the desired outcome. “Corpse found on open space”, or “innocent man attacked at a drinking spot,” were some of the news stories and village gossip that defined the new Thamaga village. This was the same village once famed for the good behaviour of its residents so much that it was pet named “Kosethoseteng,” meaning “ where you find good manners”. The elders now think someone cast a bad spell on the village.

And it is a reasonable deduction. How else do you explain a situation where your beloved son or daughter becomes a robber and killer except that an evil spirit must have entered the child? It is difficult to understand how teenage boys and girls can kill two people and let them rot, and not a single one of the children say what happened.

Recently residents woke up to the wailing of police sirens.  Two bodies had been found lying in an empty space. The badly decomposed bodies were buried by the police on the same night.

A man also lost his life following an unprovoked attack on him. Teenage attackers armed with tyre levers, first hit the man on the head. As he lay in a heap on the ground they went for his arm and nearly chopped it off. When people thought the mob would relent, the attackers broke the poor man’s leg and left him only when they believed they had killed him.

 Even as the police were investigating the cases another report came in. A junior secondary school student had just stabbed another with a knife.

It appears a knife fight broke out at the school and the other boy got more than he bargained for.  Then another teenager got stabbed to death following a quarrel over a cellphone.

What is worrisome to most decent folks, who form the majority of the population of Thamaga is that gang members carry some really dangerous weapons. When a gang of criminals were  arrested recently with arms and ammunition of war near Letlole Secondary School many believed they were part of the Thamaga ‘birds’.

There is talk lately though, that security operatives – among them intelligence officers – have joined forces with the police to give the village special attention. And as stealthily as an owl, the merubuisi appear to have quietly taken off. In fact some of the birds were not so quick in their escape and they fell right into the trap.

 “It’s quite after we arrested members of the implicated gangs,” says Thamaga Police Station Chief Balisi Ntamba. The respite could be longer, but for the many shebeens and bars in the village.

“These make fighting crime very difficult. We still have a number of criminal cases coming from them” he says. “The boy who was stabbed had been bullying others and on that day, one of the bullied boys brought a knife to school and stabbed him,” explains Ntamba.

And it is not always people from Thamaga who do crime in the village. Some of the criminals come from Gaborone. Some come from even further. “The people that we recently arrested with all sorts of ammunition came all the way from Maun with a stolen vehicle. We ambushed them and found them in possession of all those weapons.” At least for now Thamaga appears to enjoy some peace. ENDS

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