Journalists are usually thought of as insensitive scum who would think nothing of shoving their mikes at grieving families and ask “how do you feel?”
But once in a while as a journalist, you find yourself on the other side of the mike having to answer the “how do you feel” question while tears are streaming down you cheeks.
That is where I found myself after hearing the news about the BDF Jet crash during the BDF day training rehearsal which ultimately claimed the life of an old friend, Major Cliff Manyuni who hails from Rakops. Well I did not exactly find myself having to ward off mikes of insensitive scribes off my face, but I was down and heartbroken as I tried to make sense of all the speculations on social media.
My heart sank when I learnt through a text message from a former school mate that Cliff met his ultimate death during the plane crash. The Cliff that my mind conjured up was full of life, ever jovial with a perennial smile on his face. Cliff and I met at a very young age through his cousins and elder brother who were always behind the tractor steering wheel during ploughing season assisting farmers in Rakops and surrounding areas.
The Manyuni’s are ardent farmers and he could never give up the plough and track to the jet cockpit controls and AK 47 rifles. Every so often he would down his rifle, take off his military tunic and go back to Xhane, his home village where he would take up the plough.
He would tease us whenever he arrives back to Gaborone saying “ Ke gorogile banna makgwela go bata kele tela mmu gore bogolo lete leo gate kana ganke leya gae.”
Unlike his brother and cousins Cliff had never the macho type. He did not believe in displaying masculinity to prove his worthiness.
He was always calm and collected. My paths with Cliff also crossed across the volleyball diamond pitch.
I was playing volleyball for Rakops CJSS while he was playing for Orapa CJSS in 1997. We were both competing for a spot on the Schweppes National Championships. Cliff was so confident of a win that he shed tears after losing.
Cliff was all-rounder. He tried his hand and legs in all sporting activities track, field and ball sports events. When we went to Letlhakane Senior Secondary School he chose basketball over volleyball. He found a formidable team comprised of talented players. He however made it to the first team while he was still a form four student because of his sheer commitment towards achieving what he wanted. Cliff once shifted the blame to me for failing the 4 x1 relay team during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association games.
He had quipped “We are going forward and you are going backwards Barmcalo”. The likes of Gaolesiela Salang aka Durban who was part of 4×4 team that represented Botswana at Olympic Games in 2003 would laugh at me while listening to his zingers.
A straight talker who never shied away from telling you to your face that you are wrong.
It was in boarding school in Letlhakane that he also played football at the famous “FNB” stadium.
Cliff carried a laugher and was always respected his peers.
He was a night crawler though he was not into imbibing while at senior secondary unless if that memory has just faded. I remember another incident where he was found with thirteen other boys who had thrown a party in a common room.
His coach who was a teacher in Letlhakane had to accommodate him after the unfortunate incident resulted in his expulsion from boarding.
Cliff continued to show his commitment towards sports as he played for Thebephatswa based BDF Thebe Eagles basketball Team.
According to Botswana Basketball Association Cliff helped the 2011 team to reach the top four in the league. Cliff who had a sunny personality was a unifier who helped heal divisions among friends and colleagues.
He was instrumental in bringing together the LSS class of 2000 for a reunion.
Cliff you are my hero. Rest in peace brother.