But why should I want to go to Zululand? Why should I ever want anything but to live in Botswana, and to marry a Tswana girl? I said to him that Zululand sounded fine, but that every man has a map in his heart of his own country and that the heart will never allow you to forget this map. I told him that in Botswana we did not have the green hills that we had in his place, nor the sea, but we had the Kalahari and land that stretched further than one could imagine. I told him that if a man was born in a dry place, then although he may dream of rain, he does not want too much, and that he will not mind the sun that beats down and down. So I never went with him to Zululand and I never saw the sea. But that has not made me unhappy, not once […]
I love our country, and I am proud to be a Motswana. There’s no other country in Africa that can hold his head up as we can. […] But things were bad in the past. Before we built our country we had to go off to South Africa to work. We went to the mines, just as people did from Lesotho and Mozambique and Malawi and all those countries. The mines sucked our men in and left the old men and the children at home. We dug for gold and diamods and made those white men rich. They built their big houses, with their walls and their cars. And we dug down below them and brought out the rock on which they built it all.[…]
I went off the [recruiting] truck the next day. I had one trunk, which my father had bought for me at the Indian Store. I only had a pair of shoes, but I had a spare shirt and some spare trousers. These were all the things I had, apart from some biltong which my mother had made for me. I loaded my trunk on top of the truck and then all the families who had come to say goodbye started to sing. The women cried and we waved goodbye. Young men always try not to cry or look sad, but I knew that within us all our hearts were cold. […]
The older men were about the younger ones. They told them that now that they had signed on for the mines they were no longer boys. They told us that we would see things in Johannesburg which we could never have imagined existing, and that if we were weak, or stupid, or if we did not work hard enough, our life from now would be nothing but suffering. They told uys that we would see cruelty and wickedness, but that if we stuck with other Batswana and did what we were told by the older men, we would survive. I thought that perhaps they were exaggerating. I remember the older boys telling us about the initiation school that we all had to go to and warning us of what lay ahead of us. They said all this to frighten us, and the reality was quite different. But these men spoke the absolute truth. What lay ahead of us was exactly what they had predicted, and even worse.
Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency