Kubu, THE DEATH OF THE MANTIS, and Michael Stanley

The third book in the detective Kubu series, THE DEATH OF THE MANTIS, has David Bengu working in a thoroughly modern police force in Botswana.  On December 31, 2009, Michael Sears, one-half of Michael Stanley, posted this piece on Murder Is Everywhere.  In it he mentions a most unusual jail cell that can’t be found anywhere else.

“In The Footsteps Of Kubu, sort of…”The headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department is in the Millennium Park complex west of Gaborone.  Characterless, it is surrounded by parking covered by shade-cloth which loses a daily battle with the sun. It is a new building (ten years old would be a reasonable guess) and encroaches on the base of Kgale Hill which is about the only bit of topography in the area.  We visited the director of the CID there on a Saturday, but went back for another sortie around the area on Sunday.  We were delighted to see that a troupe of baboons had come down from their haunts in the rocky cap of Kgale Hill and taken over the area around the CID. They were sorting through bins and any other items of interest left as the human tide went out for the weekend. It seemed a wonderful metaphor for the juxtaposition of old and new in Africa. One we were not able to resist bringing into the stories.

Up north the Kasane police station has an interesting feature. Kasane lies on the confluence of two major rivers – the Chobe and the Zambezi. It is also at the meeting point of four countries – Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe – clearly not an entirely comfortable location these days. However, the town is thriving with fancy modern hotels overlooking the broad Chobe river and packed with tourists taking trips into the Chobe National Park a short distance away.  Built on the site of the old prison, a modern multi-story building houses the police. The architect took care to design it in such a way that two ancient baobabs could be preserved. Both are hollowed out with once locking doors that allowed prisoners to be held within the tree itself. One tree for the men and one for the women. No more than two in each at a time one hopes! You can climb in, but it’s not a very comfortable or salubrious place to spend the day.

Our third book will be set in the Kalahari desert part of Botswana, so we made the acquaintance of the police there. As usual they were charming and helpful. Tshane is a small village in the heart of the southern Kalahari. It has neighbours of the same type: Hukuntsi – the “commercial centre” sporting a petrol station and guest house, Lehututu – named after the cry of the Ground Hornbill, and Lokgwabe. The villages are there because of the usually dry salt pans which provide subterranean water. The only police station for the group of villages is at Tshane. Unlike the usual Botswana police building, this is an old style colonial one-story dating back to the days of British rule – the Bechuanaland Protectorate. It has the prime site in town: overlooking one of the salt pans. We were told it is the second oldest permanent police post in Botswana. Obviously someone thought this area would grow. Perhaps the old building survived because it didn’t.

The View from Tshane Police Station
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