Today I have a really fascinating guest post from the author(s) of Deadly Harvest, Michael Stanley. Deadly Harvest is set in Botswana, more about the book below, and Michael Stanley has written a piece about two strong, amazing women in Botswana.
Women in Botswana
Most Southern African cultures are male dominated. At least, in public. This was certainly true in our first three books with our male protagonist, David “Kubu” Bengu, his male boss, Director Jacob Mabaku, and a smattering of other male officials. We balanced this to some extent by having Kubu’s wife being a very strong woman.
However, one of the things we noticed on our many visits to Botswana was the number of remarkable women, not politicians, but in positions of influence. Two, in particular, impressed us enormously—Unity Dow and Alice Mogwe.
Lawyer Unity Dow came to prominence in the early 1990s when she took the government of Botswana to court, challenging the practice at the time of conferring citizenship to children born in Botswana on the basis of their father’s citizenship. Unity was married to an American, but wanted her children to have Botswana citizenship. She contended that this practice violated the Constitution, which accorded equal rights to women. She won the case.
Then she became the first female High Court judge in Botswana and was involved in several high-profile cases involving the resettlement of Bushman out of their traditional lands. The court found against the government of Botswana and in favour of the Bushmen. This background of the marginalizing of Bushman forms the backstory of our third Detective Kubu mystery, Death of the Mantis.
Today, Unity’s talents have been tapped by the government, and she was recently appointed Minister of Education.
In addition to all of this, Unity is an accomplished novelist. Her book, Screaming of the Innocents, deals with the same challenging subject as our Deadly Harvest—the use of human body parts for magic potions. It is a great read.
The second woman for whom we have great admiration is Alice Mogwe, the Founder Director of Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights. This organization has fought for the rights of a variety of groups of people—Bushman, women, children, etc. It was also instrumental in staying the execution of two Bushman who had been railroaded by the legal system. They were eventually acquitted through her efforts. Alice and Ditshwanelo continue to campaign against the death penalty.
Spending time with these two women, spurred us to shake things up in our novels, both for the Criminal Investigation Department and for Kubu. So we introduced the first female detective in the CID, Samantha Khama. In our story we made her a friend of the real-life girl, Segametsi Mogomotsi, who was murdered in 1994, on whose true story we based the idea of Deadly Harvest.
Part of her motivation in joining the police was to cajole the department to pay more attention to crimes against children and women, crimes traditionally neglected, particularly those where children were murdered for body parts.
Samantha’s colleagues in the department treat her with disdain and push back against her aggressive attitudes. Even Kubu has difficulty in supporting her completely, and advises her to take things slowly. She responds: ‘Assistant Superintendent, you’re a man. I don’t think you understand what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world. All we ever hear is to take it slowly, not to rock the boat. You know what that means? It means men don’t want to change, and anyone who pushes, threatens their cozy lifestyle.’
Kubu responds: ‘Not all men are like that – ’
Samantha presses on: ‘Women who complain are branded as nuisances. I hear what the other detectives are already saying about me. “A troublemaker”, they say. They resent an intrusion into their male club. How do you think it feels? I want to make a difference for women. To give crimes against them the same attention as the police give crimes against men. Is that unreasonable?’
Kubu’s self-image as being a New-Age man is challenged. He continues to resist; she continues to push. Eventually she loses her temper: ‘And I was told you would be sympathetic, that you weren’t like the others! But you’re the same, aren’t you? In favour of women’s rights in words, but not in action.’
Kubu is angry. Nobody talked to him like that, let alone someone new. He thinks that she didn’t know him; doesn’t know what he believes. He wants to point out his relationship with Joy. They were equals. (Except he doesn’t do any of the household chores!)
Eventually Kubu comes to respect Samantha’s determination and abilities and becomes a strong supporter. Together they form an effective team and start making inroads into cases that previously had gone unsolved.
We think Botswana has another remarkable woman.
Deadly Harvest was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15th May and is also available as an ebook. You can order a copy here: Deadly Harvest
What the book’s about
A young girl goes missing after getting into a car with a mysterious man. Soon after, a second girl disappears, and her devastated father, Witness, sets out to seek revenge. As the trail goes cold, Samantha Khama – new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department – suspects the girl was killed for muti, the traditional African medicine usually derived from plants, sometimes animals, and, recently and most chillingly, human parts. When the investigation gets personal, Samantha enlists opera-loving wine connoisseur Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu to help her dig into the past. As they begin to discover a pattern to the disappearances, there is another victim, and Kubu and Samantha are thrust into a harrowing race to stop a serial killer who has only one thing in mind …
About the authors
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.