Tribute to Etsile Simon Monepe (1954-2017) A life of courage, tenacity and service!

03 Dec 2017

We are each uniquely made for a purpose determined by God. Our physical uniqueness such as looks, finger prints, and DNA are easily recognised and used. But our functional uniqueness is less discernible because it relates to God’s purpose. Before God there is no ordinary person. Society gives status, awards titles, and defines who matters most in order to rank profile us. Through that profiling, most of us who do not have titles and awards, are declared ordinary. Epitaphs of ordinary people are seldom written. It is an honour that Etsile Monepe’s wife allowed this one. Etsile was an ordinary man. I am not aware of any titles bestowed upon him. The eulogy by Kgosi Ramosinyi Radipitse suggested he had some blue blood. I doubt that Etsile was aware. If he was none of his close associates would have missed it. The 63 year old Etsile Simon Monepe was buried in Tonota, his birthplace, on the 25th November 2017, nine days after he had breathed his last. He is survived by a wife, four children and two siblings. This tribute captures some highlights of his output focused life. The life pursuit disguised by a seemingly leisurely lifestyle often made him impatient, abrasive, and at times downright rude. He was quick to dismiss time wasters and would applaud people who added value to his life.

Etsile lost both parents early in his life. He once told me the parents’ loss scarred him physically and emotionally. He grew up cushioned by the extended family set up, mainly supported by four elder siblings. After Form 3, despite his potential to proceed with studies, he chose employment in order to be financially stable. Ten years later he married a Tlhalerwa maiden, Bokani, from the Ndoma clan in Tonota. Being without parents ignited a passion to reconstruct his potentially wrecked life and set the stage for what many eulogies at his funeral best described as an ordinary man with an extraordinary life.  He resolved to improve his educational qualifications. It meant combining school with work and raising a family. Electricity was rare then, which could have meant using candles, paraffin or gas light for night study. He started at the lowest rung of certificate, then diploma, followed by a bachelor’s degree and finally a master degree qualification in business studies. I was dumbstruck to discover, from his obituary, that he also attained a certificate and diploma in Insurance from the Chartered Insurance Institute in London. Etsile was a well educated man by any standard. Many of his contemporaries who were in better positions had significantly less qualifications than him. His elder brother, Monepe Monepe’s tribute, acknowledged Etsile’s intellectual prowess. Etsile worked for a wide spectrum of government institutions from the Shashe Brigades to then newly established (parastatal) Non-Banking Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), from where he retired in 2008. He had a very rich work experience. A eulogy from a close friend, Mr Ephraim Letebele, illuminated his work ability. Letebele said he learnt a lot from him at work. It is not clear why Etsile never worked for the private sector given his sought after business studies specialisations and the insurance training from a highly regarded institution. There must have been a myriad opportunities to join the private sector and earn more. Maybe he was conservative and risk averse. He was content with a guaranteed lower salary in government rather than a higher salary in the uncertain private sector world.

Etsile’s social life story is multifaceted. I knew him as a good family man, who looked after his grandchildren, took care of his siblings, nephews and nieces and generally did rounds to check on his relatives. I am struck by his children’s traditional good mannerly behaviour which includes curtsying. While I would not give exclusive credit to him, because his gentle quiet wife is a disciplinarian too, he contributed. But some Tonota residents, off the record, accused him of being snobbish, demeaning to others and so forth.  Character analysis or assassination, as it could end up being, is a highly contested opinion area. Our social profiles have different faces, so was his. I knew him to lash out when he felt ridiculed. He never easily backed off an argument. In each settlement where he worked, he established a favourite drinking hole which he faithfully patronised. He enjoyed good company. At the funeral, Mr Letebele told us that at one time in Gaborone Etsile patronised Ngotwane Bar, which was popular with gentlemen from Serowe. Etsile used to tell them “Lona Bangwato lo rata dilo. Nna ke Mokhurutshe ke teng fa!” (You Bangwato have an inflated self importance, I am a moKhurutshe and behold I am amongst you). Ethnic skirmishes, in jest, afforded him an opportunity to assert himself as a moKhurutshe. He relished a starring role in such encounters. He always believed that Bakhurutshe should stand out and be counted. Etsile was the Treasurer of the Tonota Centenary Celebrations Committee. At the funeral, the chairman of the Tonota Centenary Celebrations Committee, Mr Ratshimo Ramahobo, recounted how Etsile’s suggestion, rejuvenated the committee’s fund raising efforts. Apparently when the committee was not making headway with fund raising, Etsile suggested that they demand P1000 and a cow from each of the 16 chieftainships wards in the village. Ramohobo said, surprisingly, it worked. After the celebrations Etsile told me it was highly enjoyable and educational as the genealogy of Bakhurutshe was unravelled all the way to Namibia.

He walked into the cauldron of party politics as a UDC local council ward representative during the 2014 elections. He lost. Standing for UDC in Tonota, where the BDP has dominated since independence, is a very brave move typical of this daring man. His life had many similar. His party representative at the funeral, Mr Charlie Obotseng, told the mourners that Etsile took a very long time to agree to represent the BNF, under UDC. When asked to explain the delay, Etsile claimed that he had to confirm his parentage so that he should not discover “the truth” yelled at him during a heated rally by some political bigot. This admission showed Etsile knew that he was getting into a lion’s den, but is also a sad indictment of the freedom square venom which often characterises some rallies at times at the expense of tangible development issues. He was pushed by a desire to serve his village, which is a common cliché used to justify joining politics. Could he have offered something useful? That is a moot point that unfortunately we may now never prove. I feel he would have delivered something different. When Etsile and I often debated national development issues, I was always better informed.

Etsile pursued cattle farming as a member of a borehole syndicate. Two of the syndicate members, Mr Ishmael Mbulawa and Mr Motlhatlhobi Mogorosi paid tribute to him at the funeral. They described him as a committed, passionate, argumentative, decisive and occasionally a problematic syndicate member.  Etsile multi-tasked looking after his grandchildren with regularly checking his livestock. He took livestock ownership seriously as he recognised them as assets.

Etsile committed his life to Christ towards the latter years of his life. His son, Karabo, talked about his unceasing demand for prayer during his last days. Etsile told me many times the malady in his body caused excruciating pain. He looked ahead with hope as a Christian, but repeatedly warned me he may not make it. Etsile’s funeral service was based on two scriptures, Nehemiah 13;14 and 1 Samuel 12. The former is a plea for God to remember an individual’s deeds to God’s house. His church representative, Mr Khutsafalo, and the pastor, recounted the deceased actively contributed to the church.  The latter is Samuel’s farewell speech asking whether he had wronged anybody.  Did Etsile wrongfully possess other people’s property before he passed on? Christians ought to avoid such because we know neither the day nor the hour of our death.