“If you wake up in the morning without guilt, can’t eat and can go to work tired then you have a problem. If your purse is emptier than last night but you can’t account for the money then there is a bigger problem.
If all your agemates look younger than you then definitely there is something you aren’t doing right” so says the 360 days No Alcohol Ambassador Loretta Mekgwe, a mother, actor, vocalist, radio personality and muralist.
With a group of ladies, they decided to give alcohol a break. She changed her eating habits and is into healthy eating and a lifestyle which also includes a fitness programme.
She will share her new lifestyle with Voice readers over the next few weeks.
Mekgwe who is currently on Btv acting in Pelokgale, a series emulating domestic violence bared it all to the Voice Feel Good It’s Friday.
Q: Briefly, who is Loretta?
I’m the first child of Barbara Mekgwe, from Mochudi.
I have a seven-year-old daughter, a Media Studies graduate from University of Botswana.
I am a No Alcohol Ambassador.
Q: How was it working on the Pelokgale TV series?
It was hectic. I was pushed. I was shoved. I ran.
I cried. At one point, I couldn’t sleep, all I could think of were my character’s experience.
I compared my own life to that of Nini.
My character was pysically abused by her husband.
I faced my own abuse and sort of found closure.
Q: What kind of person was your character?
Nini was a very strong woman, stubborn, had a bit of independent mind, was committed to her marriage.
She really loved her children and husband.
Even when it wasn’t going well she fought hard to keep her marriage.
Q: A lot of people say Pelokgale is too explicit, your say?
Pelokgale is based on true life stories. It is sad that some people doubt the abuse reflected on Pelokgale.
Its easy for us to accept, talk about and watch shows like Intersexions but when our own stories are brought to us we doubt, critic and condemn.
With this kind of attitude, we might not fight the escalating rise of abuse and domestic violence.
Q: Any words of advice to them?
When you go through abuse, your self-esteem is dragged on the ground, your confidence dies, you become scared.
The pain lives with you. You remember the abuse all the time.
It’s made worse when people doubt that you are or have been abused.
Q: Is this how you feel sometimes?
Look, when you’ve been abused you don’t forget but you find a way to live with it.
Q: Loretta, you’re getting emotional but I must ask what happened?
I really don’t think I should talk about this. Its been years but I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I’ve learnt to live with it but I haven’t forgotten.
You don’t have to talk about it, you can just mention it.
I almost failed my Form 5. I was an “A” student but my performance went drastically down but because I had my family support I managed to pass.
This is very hard for me. (pause) I was raped.
Q: Did you know the person that raped you?
It was a total stranger but I was able to identify him.
I was only 17 years old and Form 4 student.
The court case was two weeks before I wrote my Form 5 examinations.
I couldn’t study as much as I wanted to.
Sometimes I get scared he will come after me again.
Q: If you were to meet with him, what would you say to him?
I hope he has become a better person and knows how many lives he destroyed.
I have long forgiven him for my own sanity.
Q: And other rape survivors?
Speak. Tell someone and you will get help. I was sent on an errand and was attacked on the way.
I told my family the moment I arrived home, they reported and he was caught.
Yes you may be scared and feel humiliated but the law is there to take care of these perpetrators and protect you.
Q: What can you say to those who keep quiet?
Silence will not save you. It only makes things worse, you die inside and you will not get the help you need.
Abuse kills one’s self-esteem, their confidence level dies and they wonder what is wrong with them.
When they speak out, they will get the help they need. I know, I spoke and got help.
Q: You spoke?
Yes, I spoke and fortunately my family was there to help and support me.
I urge abused people to speak so they get help before its too late.
Men as well must speak up. A lot of men are abused but they keep quiet for fear of stigmatisation.
Q: Would you like to share with us your story?
Q: You said acting on Pelokgale helped you to find closure, would you like to share what happened?
I don’t think I want to talk about it. It is something I put behind me and it doesn’t help talking about it.
What is important is I found closure.
Q: Alright. Your artistic side?
It was instilled in me by my uncle Buti Kgari whom we affectionately called “Tosh”.
He used to engage me in games that demanded I use my creativity.
He would draw things on the ground and allow me to play around with them.
He would make me sing, paint and act. Basically he allowed and enabled me to explore my artistic side.
Unfortunately, he passed on before he could see me do what he taught me, before he could see me become the artist I am today.
He could have seen me act in Morwalela.
Let’s talk about your role in Morwalela
Morwalela was actually my very first television production.
I played Mpho. It was in my uncle’s remembrance and honour that I worked so hard.
There were other people, my co-actors, that helped me a lot in executing my role.
Tell us more about Mpho
Mpho was a good, adorable person who was into community development.
She wasn’t perfect, she had her own flaws but she was a very strong young woman.
She met and fell inlove with Justice.
She was a virgin and she also believed her boyfriend was a virgin.
She got shocked when they both took an HIV test but the boyfriend tested positive.
It was such a blow to her but she decided to go ahead, use her strength and love and married him.
Love comes with baggage and challenges, you take it or leave it.
But it takes commitment and courage to take it.
Q: Speaking of love, do you have a man in your life?
Q: Are you looking?
I definitely would want to get married to someone that is compatible with me because I am a romantic.
Q: Loretta, the question is, are you looking?
I believe God’s timing is the perfect time.
He will choose for me the right person and when that time comes, he will direct my husband my way.
Q: Do you believe in marriage?
I do believe in the institution of man and woman joined together in holy matrimony.
And if God wills, I will be married one day.
Q: In an era where divorce rate is so high, aren’t you scared?
I don’t know why people divorce and that won’t scare me from getting married.
My grandparents, who been married for almost 40years, taught me that marriage is sacred.
Q: Tell us about Smart Chow?
Smart Chow started as a school project to encourage people to eat well, whatever they want but in moderation and then burn it out with exercise.
But am continuing it to reach out to other people.
After the birth of my daughter, in 2008, I struggled with weight loss.
I tried all sorts of diets but failed. Starving oneself in a bid to shed off weight is dangerous and unhealthy.
We just need to eat well and healthily.
A lot of people are dying from lifestyle diseases and this can be avoided with “smart chowing”.
Q: How are you doing with the 360days free campaign?
(laughs) Very well, I’m on day 147.
It was only after I signed up that I noticed we drink a lot in Botswana.
It’s quite shocking and scary. When you say you don’t drink, they smell your drink or taste it and get shocked that it’s not alcohol.
Q: Don’t you get tempted to drink?
I do get tempted but its my determination that keeps me going.
The problem is when you go out at night, one doesn’t have other options on beverages to drink.
When entering an outlet everyone’s question is “ke nweng?” and your choice is only limited to hard drinks.
Q: What is wrong with offering, for instance, tea and assorted fruit cocktails at clubs?
We need a reason not to drink but as it is, we have a reason to drink.
Q: What challenges did you meet in your campaign?
People doubted me and some tried to discourage me. I experienced withdrawal syndromes.
I would get irritable and edgy. There were days I would literally see green bottles flying and walking about towards me, I would smell the alcohol even when it was not there.
Q: Were you an alcoholic?
No, but I drank a lot, much more than I should have.
I would even drink during the week. I never used to know what Saturday mornings looked like.
I would wake up regretting why I went out but would continue to drink.
Q: And you don’t call that being alcoholic?
This campaign has done me a lot of good.
I now have time for my family and friends, I go to work fresh and my skin glows, as you can see.
Q: So you were alcoholic
To some extent, yes.