I have touched on corporal punishment in Botswana before, but never has it hit me so close to home…
I would like to preface this post, Botswana is a safe country. Yes, there is crime and I do believe that crime is escalating in Botswana as a whole. However, I find that I live in a very safe area of Botswana. Yes, I have had to deal with my share of bothersome men, but there have been very few times (I can count them on one hand) that I have felt unsafe. Seriously unsafe, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your heart races unsafe, fight or flights unsafe.
There is a gentleman in Hukuntsi who has harassed myself and Sarah for months and months. First it was just annoying. Then he became more erratic in his behaviors. He has grabbed my breasts before, touched us, pushed me and forcible block us from leaving or entering a store.
A few weeks ago we reported him to the police when he forcibly blocked me from entering a room as we were trying to flee from him. Sarah the lucky lady had made it in the room before he could stop her. We took him to the police and they sat him down and talked to him. He denied everything. He wasn’t bothering us, he just wanted money….etc etc etc. That day in particular he followed us around the shopping “mall” in Hukuntsi, grabbing our arms, yelling at us and followed into a store. Repeatedly we told him to go away (in English and Setswana) he flat out told us “ke a gona” I am refusing. But yet, he just claims he wanted money.
For the most part, people in Hukuntsi look out of us, they tell him to go away and make sure we are “safe”
Not the other day…
Its uncanny, its like the man (he is 20 or 21) has radar for us, the minute is step out of the kombi he was on me. Walking far to close for comfort, yelling that he loves me and something about killing someone. I escaped into my first store, the clerk told him to leave. The minute I left he followed me. Then I escaped to PEP. The manager at PEP is a lady with a pair of lungs, she always does a fine job of yelling at him. Unfortunately she wasn’t there. At this point I was already on the edge of crying out of frustration as I am asking for help. The staff at PEP do nothing but laugh at me and tell me I should hit him. That was the breaking point. I cry.
Nothing is worse than crying out of frustration.
Not to mention that crying is a big cultural no-no in Botswana. No one cries (at least in public) and no one knows what to do when they see you crying. Especially a grown woman. People get deer in the headlights looks and don’t make eye contact with you they are so uncomfortable.
After calling the amazing Thuso our safety and security officer (ironically his name means “help”) he stayed with me on the phone while I walked to the police. Af first the police officers just stare at me. Like its a joke that I am asking for help from this guy. “Ahhh he is mentally ill” they tell me actually its more like “he is not right in the head” but I don’t find that an appropriate way to describe an individual with a mental health diagnosis. Finally the police officer says he will go and find this man.
A short while later they return and after a rapid discussion all in Setswana the police officer tells me to sit in a particular chair. I didn’t question that so I move. The next thing I know the police officer has a switch in his hand and the man is bent over a chair. The police officer proceeds to switch the man, in front of me. Within 3 feet of my face, in front of me. All the time telling him he needs to leave me alone. Now, this wasn’t the type of switching I see in school, these lashes were meant to leave a mark and inflict pain. The lashing must have been some work for the officer because during it—he removes his jacket. Or maybe the jacket was constricting his range of motion…? After he lashes the guy and yells at him someone the man walks out of the room. It was more of a painful limp of a person who just got their ass beat….The police officer looks at me and says “he won’t bother your anymore”
Not only have I been subjected to this mans constant harassment, I was just subjected to a beating. I was so unnerved that I was shaking. I ask the officer to walk with me to my kombi stop because I was worried this man wouldn’t leave me alone. The officer looks at me like I was crazy—this man was just beat why wouldn’t he leave you alone? Finally the officer agrees and walks me to the kombi stop. And guess who was at the kombi stop….?