An Islander in the Ghetto
Since settling in Francistown in 2006, Saadia Rossenkhan has established herself as a driven lady, passionate about the plight of the city’s people.
Born in Lobatse to Mauritian parents, Rossenkhan has always been a city slicker, a flamboyant girl who in 2005 considered settling in Canada on her return from studying at the California State University in the United States.
That is until she set foot in the second capital of Botswana and fell in love with its laid back demeanor and the colourful Ikalanga culture.
A Clinical Audilogist by profession, she walks around with a self-made Ikalanga dictionary, and is well conversant in the language.
Now a married mother of twins and a respected entrepreneur, Rossenkhan, or ‘Phadza’ to her Kalanga friends, is in almost all the city’s major committees.
By her own admission this fitness fanatic is at times forced to cancel engagements and send her apologies when her schedules clash.
However, this mover and shaker is not about to slow down.
After months of trying, Voice Reporter, Kabelo Dipholo finally tracked her down to her office at Impex Fasteners and Tools for this interview.
Q. You are a busy woman. Sometimes you seem to be in three places at the same time! How do you manage?
A. Yes I do have a busy schedule. I just arrived from Gaborone last night where I took part in the Diacore Marathon.
I’m a member of different groupings and that means travelling a lot.
It is something I enjoy and so far I’ve managed my schedule quite well!
Q. You are one of the most recognisable figures in the second city, mainly due to your involvement with a number of committees in Francistown. How long have you been a Francistowner?
A. I’m everywhere, aren’t I!
Well to be honest when I came to settle here in 2006 after getting married I was taken aback.
I thought, ‘what on earth is this town?’ No cinema, nothing.
I was a city slicker and my only knowledge of Francistown was occasional stopovers on my way to Kasane.
But I fell in love with this place.
Francistown is special, there’s something about the city that just melts my heart.
This is where I want to be for the rest of my life.
Q. You are a member of numerous committees in the city, including the Rotary Club, Supa Ngwao Museum, Tafic Football Club, Francistown Club and many others.
A. (Laughs). It is quite remarkable because when I came here I didn’t have any friends.
But because I’m a sociable individual I was able to interact with a lot of people.
My friend Chipo recruited me to the Rotary Club, and although I was reluctant, I joined the following year.
It was at this club that my network began to expand.
I met Stella, who recruited me to the museum and I became a board member.
I also joined the Book Club, and through some members there I joined the Garden Club where I interacted with old women who are passionate about gardening.
I knew nothing about gardening when I joined the club, but I joined anyway and made friends.
I didn’t go out of my way to get into these committees, it was all through networking and showing interest.
If you are not scared to meet people of different backgrounds and embrace the diverse cultures, you can open a lot of doors.
Q. What is your view of Francistown?
A. It is a special city. Most people come here and say this town is too slow, or there’s nothing to do here.
I always tell them to give this place a chance.
People who know me as a city slicker are shocked that I chose to settle down here.
I’m Kalanga now and I love it. I’m Phadza.
I’ve learnt the language, and I carry a Kalanga dictionary with words written the way I hear them.
I don’t even miss Gabz.
Q. How did you end up as a member of Tafic’s new Executive Committee?
A. A veteran journalist, Edward Bule recruited me.
I’ve known him for some time and he’s passionate about Tafic.
I was reluctant at first because I don’t know much about football.
But after meeting with the Chairman, Carlos Sebina, I took the responsibility of being the team Treasurer.
We go to matches every weekend and our duty is to ensure gate takings are well taken care of, and that everything tallies at the end of the day.
I’m glad our team got promoted to the Premier League, which means we have to be ready for the demanding task ahead.
We don’t even watch the football, we focus on tickets to ensure that all the money brought in by Tafic’s loyal supporters is deposited into the club’s bank account.
We have brought accountability and once again through networking my circle now includes football people.
Q. For the past couple of months you have also taken part in marathons in Botswana and across the border. Why do you run?
A. I have to be honest I was not always a health conscious person.
I started smoking aged 18 and was a heavy smoker for so many years.
I mean I carried a packet in my handbag and I wouldn’t even want to mention the amount of money I spent on cigarettes!
However, one day I looked at my photograph and I didn’t like what I saw.
I was shocked at how much damage smoking had done to me!
I took a decision to quit and joined a boot camp.
It was not an easy thing because though I trained every day, I was still hooked to the fags.
It was through my interaction with people at the boot camp that I was sold to the idea of doing marathons.
My first marathon was the Lady Khama 21km race in 2018.
At the end of that marathon, I was so pumped up and I never looked back.
I have done five local marathons since last year and one at Harties.
I plan to take part in another marathon in Pretoria this year.
I’m now a member of a Francistown running group, Acers.
They are all passionate about running and are so welcoming, especially to beginners.
Q. You seem to be focused on these committees and clubs. What else do you do socially?
A. That is my social life!
I choose where to go every weekend depending on what any particular club or committee is doing.
I’m also a mother of eight-year-old twin daughters.
Actually I’m a mother of four because I stay with my niece and my helper’s daughter.
So whenever you see me, I’m always with four kids which has been confusing to a lot of people!
Q. How did you and your husband meet?
A. We met through a mutual friend.
I had just returned from the USA and was planning to leave the country for Canada in 2005 when my friend insisted that I should meet this guy.
I eventually agreed to meet him at Gaborone Sun (now Avani) and we hit it off.
We had so much in common, and I just couldn’t believe that a person like him existed.
He’s an Engineer by profession and we got married the following year.
We are both so busy that we only see each other in the evening.
He’s however so supportive, that is why I’m able to travel and take part in these many marathons and be a member of so many committees.
Q. This has been such a colorful interview. But before we part ways, Thank God it’s Friday, what do you have planned for the weekend?
A. I want to relax with family.
It’s Ramadan, so I’ll invite friends over to my place before I break fast.
Most people think Ramadan is all about starving one’s self, so this week my invited friends will understand what it’s all about.
It is about caring and giving more.
I’ll eventually break fast, but there are people out there who don’t break, their starvation is real!