“The entire Debswana family is saddened by the loss of Rre Gaolathe,” said Blackie Marole, Managing Director of Debswana. “I personally worked with him as a Debswana Director and remember him as a visionary and humble leader. He provided strategic guidance to this Company and has contributed immensely to building it to the great company it is today.”
Marole said this at a recent Debswana top management tribute to the late former minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe. Gaolathe passed away last week at a Johannesburg hospital.
His death came at a time when he was battling with a tumor to the extent where, earlier this year, the president of Botswana had to ask him to step down from his stressful job as minister and focus on his health.
Described by many as a loyal public servant and a humble soul who was never involved in scandals, his death comes at a time when his party, the BDP, a party he had been loyal to for a long time, is in murky waters. Gaolathe joined politics in 1999 when he was appointed a Specially Elected MP and was, thereafter, appointed the minister of Finance and Development Planning.
In 2004, he contested the General elections for the Tonota North constituency and, after winning the constituency, was reappointed to serve as minister of Finance and Development Planning.
His road with Debswana is reportedly an eventful one that saw him developing professionally.
Having formed part of the Debswana family for years, the man whom Batswana mostly associated with “his briefcase“ had made friends amongst co-workers.
This week, two of his former co-workers, Managing director Blackie Marole and chairman of the Debswana board, Gareth Penny, publicly expressed sadness at the passing away of the former minister.
Both Penny and Marole have worked with Gaolathe during his time with Debswana.
Gaolathe was also a former managing director of Debswana, a position he held until he left Debswana in 1997.
His association with Debswana started back in 1973. The company was still known as the DeBeers Botswana Mining Company when he was appointed to the Board of Directors.
In 1974 he became a Director of the Botswana Diamond Valuing Company and Diamond Trading Company. From 1989 to 1992, he was a Director of De Beers Consolidated Mines. Before he joined Debswana, Gaolathe had joined the civil service in 1968.
He is also a former Bank of Botswana Governor, who has held other lucrative positions within different ministries and associations.
In a press release, Ester Kanaimba, Debswana Group Manager Public and Corporate affairs, said that Gaolathe was closely associated with building the successful Debswana partnership, and creating the environment in which the company has prospered for the benefit of Botswana and De Beers. She further divulged that he also played a critical role in the acquisition of a stake for Botswana in De Beers and Anglo American.
“Baledzi made an outstanding contribution to Debswana, and to the development of the diamond industry in this country. He had a vision for Botswana that went beyond the world of diamonds. On behalf of colleagues across De Beers we offer our deepest condolences to his family,” said Penny.