Mar 26, 2010


Makwerekwere is a Setswana word that means (as far as I can tell) foreigners from Africa. On a side note, Asian foreigners are called "Chinas," while white-looking ones are "makgowa." One of the teachers at my school mentioned it in the context of Zimbabweans that are coming "to steal our jobs." With the continuing economic cataclysm in Zimbabwe, something like 25% of the population there has fled to South Africa, where they are widely resented for starting businesses and prospering.

This came to a head more recently when I was teaching English in Grade 7. I had just started, and was still trying to learn their names. One face that I hadn't seen last year turned out to be a new girl from Pretoria. Here's how the conversation went:

ME: What's your name, again?
NEW STUDENT: Palesa. I am come from Pretoria.
ME: Oh really? Were you born there?
ZANE (a boy): This girl is from Zimbabwe. She talk Xhosa.
ME: Xhosa is from Eastern Cape, not Zimbabwe. [to the girl] Are you from Eastern Cape?
PALESA: I am from Kay Zed Enn [Kwa-Zulu Natal]. I speak Zulu and Xhosa because my mother is Zulu and my father is Xhosa.
ME: You speak Tswana too?
PALESA: And Sepedi.
ZANE: She must go back to Zimbabwe.
ME: She's not from Zimbabwe, silly. Don't you know where KZN is? [I doubt he's ever been past Kuruman.]
ZANE: They speak Xhosa in Zimbabwe.
ME: No they don't, they speak Shona. Do you know Shona?
ZANE: What?
PALESA: Batho ba Zimbabwe ba bua Shona jaaka batho ba Northwest ba bua Setswana. (People from Zimbabwe speak Shona like people from Northwest speak Setwana.)
ZANE: Eng? (what?)
ME: Shut up, Zane. It's time for English now.

Reasonably educational, I suppose.

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