Gabatshwane sadly passed away in a car accident in South Africa in July 2023. These are excerpts from the story about Gabatshwane that was published during their time as a child juror.
Gabatshwane's parents died from AIDS when she was six years old.
"I used to look up at the sky and pray for my mom to come back home. When she didn't respond, I became very sad."
After their parents' death, many people were afraid of getting infected by Gaba. Most of them had no knowledge of how the disease spreads, and besides, a test showed that Gaba wasn't sick. Yet, Gaba didn't have any friends. They were also bullied in school for having scars from an accident when they were little and fell into a basin of boiling water and was badly burned on her right arm and leg.
"They laughed at me in school, and I was always alone."
Gabatshwane as a child in her school uniform.
In the village of Lethabong, where the siblings lived, a large portion of the residents were unemployed. Many of them were young people who turned to crime. A significant portion of the population lived with HIV/AIDS, and many children were orphaned. In the past, during apartheid (state discrimination) in South Africa when the black population was treated badly, white farmers used to abandon those who were too old or too sick to continue working on the farms in Lethabong. Despite the name Lethabong meaning "a happy place" in the Tswana language, it is not so.
In the WCP's international children's jury, Gaba represented all children orphaned by AIDS or with HIV/AIDS in their families, as well as children fighting for the rights of vulnerable children. Here, Gaba performs at the WCP ceremony in Sweden.
Nelson Mandela was Gabatshwane's idol and role model.
“I want to have a good heart like him,” says Gaba, who already had a good heart, according to everybody around them. With the money their band raised, they helped orphaned and poor children.
Gaba and big brother Vusi.
Gaba and her older brother Vusi created an organization together called Bana Ke Bokamoso, which means "Children are the future."
“I want to help other children who are hungry and alone. It breaks my heart when I see children who have a difficult life,” Gaba said.
Gabatshwane sings for her great idol Nelson Mandela and for Graça Machel.
Gaba and Vusi started a band called Gabatshwane. Or Gabatshwane Marimba
Band, to be precise. Gaba has performed many times, including several times for Nelson Mandela. "Hey Madiba" (Mandela's nickname), you respect our rights. You make me proud. Thank you for your magic!," she sang in one of her songs.
"“I demand that politicians work for the rights of the child. I have discussed this with the Minister of Education and I made an opening speech about the rights of the child at our provincial government here in North West Province", said Gaba.
One day, Gaba and her band were going to perform in the city of Rustenburg. The TV was broadcasting live, and many politicians were present. They had come to talk to the vulnerable people in the area and find out what help they needed.
"Have you noticed that there are no other children here?" Gaba said to her bandmates about the audience. "Isn't that typical?"
Gaba had hoped to have the chance to talk to the politicians about children's rights, but didn't get the opportunity. The meeting was only for adults!
“I wanted to tell them about the orphans in my school. About what it's like to always be hungry and having to walk barefoot to school when it’s cold in winter time”.
However, things worked out. Gaba had planned a little coup. The band was going to perform three songs, and usually, they played songs that make people happy.
“But we decided to include the sad song 'Ge kena mme, Ge kena rre' this time. It means 'I have no mother. I have no father' and is about how difficult it is to manage on your own," explained Gaba before they went on stage, where everyone heard the words:
“We are the forgotten children, we are children who want to go to school, who want to be loved."
"So the politicians got to hear the voice of the children anyway!" said Gaba afterwards, laughing.
Text: Annika Forsberg Langa