Skip to main content


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.


Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

On Refusing to Vote for Bloomberg

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is attempting to buy the Democratic nomination. With something like $400 million in personal spending so far, that much is clear — and it appears to be working at least somewhat well, as he is nearing second place in national polls. I would guess that he will quickly into diminishing returns, but on the other hand spending on this level is totally unprecedented. At this burn rate he could easily spend more than the entire 2016 presidential election cost both parties before the primary is over. I published a piece today outlining why I would not vote for Bloomberg against Trump (I would vote for Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Biden), even though I live in a swing state. This got a lot of "vote blue no matter who" people riled up . They scolded me and demanded that I pre-commit to voting for Bloomberg should he win the nomination. The argument as I understand it is to try to make it as likely as possible that whatever Democrat wins t

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha