Man missing for 60 years returns home
by Reuben Pitse
A popular South African Broadcasting Corporation television program, Khumbulekhaya (longing for home), has reunited Ranko Peter Selato of Morwa with his family after a 60-year separation.
Selato was last seen in the 1940s when he quietly disappeared and went to South Africa to seek employment without the knowledge of the family.
His family thought he had long died.
Now the man is back and the family is throwing a well come party next weekend, with village leaders expected to attend.
“I am happy that I am now home after so many years away,” Selato, now aged 78, told the Sunday Standard, on Friday.
He explained that he left his home village of Morwa in the 1940s without the knowledge of his family members and went to South Africa to seek employment in the mines.
Selato said there were no borders at that time and he simply went through Mafikeng enroute to Gauteng where he was hopeful to find work and a decent home.
“I did not find what I wanted,” he said. “I survived on piece jobs.”
Selato said he witnessed the hardship and the cruelty of apartheid to blacks and changed his names so that he could get his “green pass” so as to qualify to also get a house.
He revealed that he once had his own family there but, unfortunately, his wife and child died, leaving him alone again.
He stated that he eventually found refuge at one of the old age homes in Gauteng until one of his friends contacted the producers of the television programme, Khumbulekhaya, and they aired his appeal to find his relatives in Botswana.
“I thought my brother was dead,” said his younger brother, Ipelegeng.
He said there were about nine in their family of six boys and three girls but now only three men are still alive.
Ipelegeng said that one evening, while he was at the cattle post, he received a call from his wife claiming that his brother appeared on TV but he dismissed that as a joke.
He reluctantly and suspiciously started to take note after someone else called saying the same thing and, the following morning, returned home where everyone was talking about who they saw on television.
He said without wasting time, a relative in Ramotswa contacted SABC-TV.
“I could not believe my eyes when the crew of Khumbulekhaya brought home my brother who cried like a child as he disembarked from a black jeep,” Ipelegeng recalls. “This coming weekend there will be a big welcome party where a cow will be slaughtered.”
He said he is very pleased that his brother returned alive and that plans to get him an “O Mang” are under way.
“I am happy that the old man has finally come home after so many years away,” said Morwa Village headman, Erick Ntshole.
He said that Selato had already been brought to his office to assist him to apply for an ID so that he becomes a Motswana.
Ntshole applauded the TV program for a job well done.
“I believe that there are still other Batswana in South Africa who are trying to locate their families in Botswana; the families must not give up,” he said.