There are several explanations as to how Francistown came by its Ghetto nickname, but recently there have been calls for the second city to lose its ghetto roots and rebrand itself as the ‘Gateway to the North.’
History does not clearly record how Francistown earned its street name -some say “ghetto “was coined in the late 1970s and early 80s by a generation that embraced the western way of dressing in jeans and leather boots. Some suggest the advent of films in the townships and the hit song of now world famous Zimbabwean maestro Oliver Mtukudzi, “ I was born in the Ghetto,”inspired the name. Others claim the name was in common use back in much earlier days when the majority of the population lived in the vicinity of the Monarch mine. The area was dubbed ‘ghetto’ in contrast to the fledgling town inhabited by the few whites around who livedin much more prosperous circumstances east of the railway line.
Whateverthe case, Guest of Honour at the recently held BOCCIM Northern Trade Fair, BTC CEO Paul Taylorsuggested Francistown drops the name on the grounds that it would not be appealing to any investor.
To find out what residents had to say on the matter we took to the streets of the second city to gauge public opinion.
Retired Mater Spei history teacher George Malusalila, 65, said:
“I don’t think the name should be changed. In my opinion it’s not in any way working against the development of Francistown. Instead it’s the attitude of the city fathers. They are the people tasked with the promotion and development of this metropolis. They are to blame for the current state of the city. A lot more should be happening here because Zambia and Zimbabwe are nearby.They aren’t pressing the right buttons, and now the city is really turning into a ghetto as the expression is used when referring to parts of New York or Mumbai.”
Young journalist Barati Mathambo,24, has a different opinion, she believes:
“The nickname is adversely working against Francistown when it comes to attracting investors.Ghetto is associated with undeveloped places. Even when comparing with other major villages or Gaborone,this place is not growing.Ratherit’s falling apart. Francistown needs to be revamped, the face of the city needs to be changed.”
Outspoken Tati East ParliamentarianSamson Guma Moyo, had this to say:
“It would be as good as erasing the city’s history. The name ghetto reminds us of where we are from.”
Though not sure why and when Francistown was nicknamed “ghetto,” Moyo presumes it is because of the mud huts that made up most of the residential areas and the lack of infrastructure in the 1970s and early 80s.
“We lived a simple bantu life. The townships then resembled a ghetto.I believe it’s a name we need to preserve. This issue that investors are not coming to the city because of the name is neither here nor there. Investors come into a place because there is infrastructure, opportunities and the environment is conducive -not because of its name.”
29-year-old Benhilda Isaiah an Information Technology student praised Francistown, as “ghetto fabulous.”
“Squatters are being moved to make way for development.Also this place is not expensive, not stressful and easily manageable. The name has not stopped an international airport and a stadium from being built here. I believe this place is better planned than Gaborone – in case people have forgotten what of the Extension 27 slums of Gaborone?”
Lindah Seruthu, 22,from Kgaphamadi, born and bred in Francistownhad this to say:
“Ghetto give us a sense of belonging,it’s historical.It may not be the same as in the old days as we now have tarred roads and several malls that add to the famous Blue Jacket Street, but we need to preserve our heritage.
Ghetto for me meansa brotherly bond, the spirit of being a community. One cannot sleep on a hungry stomach when you have neighbours. People here help each other out. Where I live we watch each other’s back.”
Former Francistown Mayor and BOCCIM President Mahomed Iqbal Ebrahimwas of the opinion:
“The name ‘ghetto’ may have wrong connotations, despite being hip to the young generation. Maybe it’s a pet name. Or the name’s originates from the days when development took place on the eastern side of the railway line and not on the western side where most Batswana lived.
Another line of thought is that it is a term of endearment even though foreigners associate the name with being run down and rife with crime. Yet another theory is that it is used to compare Francistown to Gaborone,where most development is taking place.
WhenI was Mayor I always said Francistown was the capital and gateway to the North. Maybe we should call it the Hub of the North since it’s the transportation and service centre. But it’s for the people to decide.Why don’t you throw it to them and get their feeling on how they want to promote their city through an alternative tag line?”
It was a question we put out on the social media – check out The Voice Newspaper Botswana and join in the lively debate on the country’s most popular Facebook page.