Speakers at former Minister of Finance Baledzi Gaolathe’s funeral hailed him as a national hero who played an integral part in shaping Botswana’s fiscal policy and coordinating operations of organisations like the Southern African Development Community.
“Many of us here today have learnt a lot from Gaolathe, and we have benefited immensely from his guidance and mentorship,” said incumbent Minister of Finance Ken Matambo, who took over from Gaolathe.
He named as some of Gaolathe’s products, Freddie Modise, the Commissioner General of Botswana Unified Revenue Service, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Serwalo Tumelo, Debswana Managing Director, Blackie Marole, Banny Molosiwa, and Wilfred Mandlebe.
Former President Festus Mogae said Gaolathe was a man of great humility, integrity and generosity of character.
“Gaolathe was a dedicated and committed man of great intellect and integrity. I can only compare him to former president Ketumile Masire in terms if humility. He never raised his voice, but always made sure that he put his point across,” said Mogae.
He said Gaolathe succeeded him in a number of high profile positions, including as the Minister of Finance and Governor of Bank of Botswana.
“It is a pity that he did not succeed me as President,” said Mogae jokingly.
For his part, former President Sir Ketumile Masire said he got to know of Gaolathe while he was still a university student, working part time in the Ministry of Finance.
“At that time, we were head hunting for intellectuals to take Botswana forward. Because of his hard work and great intellect, Gaolathe caught our eye, and we immediately recruited him into the public service when he graduated,” said Masire.
He said Gaolathe acquitted himself quite well in all the executive positions that he held.
“The noble achievement that this country has attained is due to the invaluable contribution of Baledzi Gaolathe. He worked tirelessly to contribute to the socio-economic development of this country,” said acting President Mompati Merafhe.
Gaolathe served Botswana distinctly for 42 years, beginning his career as an Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Water Affairs at the age of 26. He rose through the ranks to become Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Managing Director of Debswana, Governor of Bank of Botswana, Minister of Finance and lastly Minister of Trade and Industry.
Gaolathe passed away on 28 May after battling with cancer since 2008. He struggled through three major surgeries performed at Milpark Hospital in South Africa. He is survived by three children, his grandchildren, his mother, his wife and siblings.