Monday, February 26, 2024

Moroka “Bowie” Tshipinare

Moroka “Bowie” Tshipinare (53) breathed his last in the early hours of Sunday 31st October 2010, at the Princess Marina Hospital, Gaborone. He had been hospitalised for ten hours with what appeared a minor complaint. He was laid to rest at his home village, Mokgomane, the following Saturday.

Among the hundreds of mourners, were his friends Archie, Tshepo, Soccer, Kido, Cecil, Varney, Marx, Mashinyana, Doom, Mbanya, Russia, Bonno and Gaolape to name a few. His family members and relatives were there too. The well attended funeral was dignified and full of peace, a fitting tribute to a man who did not entertain social barriers during his peaceful life. Those of us who interacted with Bowie are thankful to God for the opportunity and wish his soul to rest in peace.

I met Moroka at Moeding College in January 1970 as Form 1s. For the next five years we were to be in the same class. Later, at the University of Botswana, we shared a room for two years. We therefore came to know each other quite well.

At secondary school Moroka was a fairly quiet, pleasant, peaceful and bright young man. Sportingly he was very lazy. I only recall him ever playing ONE sport that seems to be now extinct, called tennis quette. It was a lazy sport played on a small tennis like court, using a rubber ring. He was quite good at it.

I remember thinking if he could do it with a bit more vigour he would be much better. He had an undistinguished secondary school character. To be distinguished then you had to be either a genius, noisy, notorious or a sports star, preferably a footballer. Being bright, quiet, and non-sporting were not credentials for secondary school lime light.

Moroka became David Bowie, an English singer of the time, at Moeding. He earned the name when he owned and played a portable piano which was a source of great entertainment those days. Some days he would be part of an ad-hoc band with some school musicians like Rascal Belle, Kaizer, Joe and Stig. Yours truly would be on the vocals! He had a good touch on the key board. If it was now he may have pursued a music career.

Moroka was always generous. On one occasion his generosity turned sour. He lent another student his end of term bus fare with the promise that he would get it back before “home go”. The indebted student did not payback as promised and Moroka could only afford the fare to Lobatse. He claimed to have walked from Lobatse to Mokgomane. Whether he actually walked or not, the incident describes his extensive generosity and blind trust which has been a part of his 53 year life.

At secondary school, he and I used to share many things. A moment that we reminisced about a lot was when we both ran out of glycerin in winter and used the dew to wet our cracked shins to make them look oiled in the early morning chill. Another was when we could only afford half a loaf, and had to do with plain water for kool aid, a very special drink then.

Moroka distinguished himself as a mathematician at UB. Our room was a 24 hour maths clinic for many of his class mates. He would help them solve problems and in other cases allow them to transcribe his assignments.

He excelled in accounting. It was at UB that Bowie developed into a genius, a status with the familiar frills and flaws such as being allergic to studying, laziness, speedy task achievement and hanging about with a lot of time to do other things.

As a “Lobatse boy” Bowie knew “urban things” that he could teach me. One Friday at UB he invited me to Lesedi Community Hall to introduce me to disco. The most memorable thing about the night was neither the flashing lights nor the loud music, but how thoroughly soaked we were when we walked back to our room in the pouring rain.

After he graduated at UB in 1979 he took employment with the Department of Taxes.

Between 1984 and 1985, he went to Harvard Law School, in USA, where he pursued a course on tax investigation. I am told Harvard is an elite university and one of the most challenging in the world. He passed the course.

He often passionately narrated how their professors trained them on tax investigation techniques. Cecil’s eulogy as a work colleague at Taxes, highlighted that Bowie got bored after he was transferred to the less challenging policy department from his favourite tax investigation and assessment. In the late 1980s Bowie left Department of Taxes.

After Department of Taxes, he tried different types of self employment. At one point he worked as an accountant for a certain property developer. He ultimately settled into business advisory and tax consultancy services. His clientele base was varied: medical doctors, public transport operators, haulage contractors, farmers, horticulturists, milling companies, earth moving contractors, and many others. No business was too small, too big or too complex for him.

Moroka’s flagship service was the income tax advisory. He once got a client such a huge tax relief that he was given a medium cost house as a present, in addition to paying the consultancy fee.
As part of his business advisory services he helped clients to submit and defend applications for CEDA loans. He enjoyed going to defend his clients’ cases at CEDA. He would dress exquisitely for such occasions. He also helped clients to resuscitate and turn businesses around. He did well with business advisory services because he was well informed.

He read a lot and was therefore always up to date with government policy and other business news. Crucially for his clients, he did not have a greedy mind to steal clients’ business ideas or pass them to other clients for a fee.

Bowie had a laissez faire attitude to consultancy fees for his services. At his funeral I said many people owed him because he rarely invoiced nor collected what he had charged. I hope those who owe him are aware that at death all accounts became due.

At times he tried to go into business. I would cringe because I knew that he could never do what he taught other people. He was the classic “do as I say not as I do” consultant. Like the proverbial mechanic who seldom drove a roadworthy car his own business did not meet most of the standards that he prescribed to his clients.

After a few attempts to work at an office away from home, he settled for working from his residence in Taung. Working at home made him to put very long hours into his work. Most of his clients did not respect working hours.

He tried unsuccessfully to define business hours.

He often made clashing appointments with clients. To avoid the disappointment, some clients resorted to picking him up in the morning to a hiding place until their job was done. This of course would inconvenience other clients, but that was the man!

I believe that a good life has two attributes, good health and peace. Both can be available through God’s help.

Moroka had peace. He was not haunted by ugly mood swings. He would never keep grudges. He did not enjoy good health in the last decade or so of his life when he was wheel chair bound.
He had progressively lost the use of his legs. Although he got medical examination, and I am convinced knew what was wrong with his legs, he did not bother to explain to us.

Many wrongly assumed that it was a result of his drinking habit. After his death somebody told me that he may have been a victim of a rare neurological disorder which causes men to lose the use of their legs. His legs were frequently in pain. As friends and clients we knew and were used to his condition which we did not regard as life threatening. We were thus all deeply shocked by the news of his death that fateful Sunday morning.

Good health and peace often, but not always, lead to a good natured person. In his case he did not enjoy good health, but Bowie was good natured. Genuinely! Not just as a polite statement in a eulogy. The nearest example was his keen interest and following of the recent Chile miners rescue drama.

He passionately sent me messages on the rescue of each one of them from 0530 hrs. Days later, still following the story, he told me of the rescued miners’ football game.

His good nature led to what in my view was blatant abuse by some “friends” and clients. It was frustrating to see it happen but we accepted it as his kind gesture. Like other friends, I learnt to respect his view although often seething in anger and despair. The generosity and the trusting character which I described earlier was part of Bowie to his grave. Many benefited from it.

He would give away his money to “friends” at the slightest requisition or even invite them to come and collect the money. I once heard him phone a friend, “tla o nkope ke laisitse.” Maybe he had read Deuteronomy 15:10 which urges us to give freely. He never explained that part. His Taung residence was a home to many people. It was often as crowded as a busy shopping mall – clients and residents alike. In the past 10 years I saw over 20 people that he accommodated for different periods at different times. He shared everything he had with others.

Bowie was an effective tax collector although not working for BURS. He advised many on tax avoidance and against tax evasion. BURS staff who dealt with his clients will miss his engagement which complemented their service to the public.

He was one of the best business minds to bounce ideas against. He would critique a business idea and quickly plug up the holes in the proposal. He came up with some of the best business plans ever presented to financial institutions. His business proposals enjoyed a very high success rate with funding institutions which he often celebrated well.

He was a socialite with a wide circle of diverse friends. I once saw a South African singer on television and Moroka told me of his time with the singer around Gaborone at a previous date. He had telephone contacts to what appeared to me to be a zillion people. His ability to make friends was one of the most remarkable that I have ever seen. His socialite character from the earlier days was somehow diminished by his disability in the later stages of life.

I regard Moroka as an unsung Botswana hero. He was an ordinary man with an extraordinary life. No glitz and glamour; no press conferences to count how many projects he had helped through funding institutions; no adverts. He did not have to. Satisfied clients told others and it snowballed.

He touched many lives differently. He is already missed by many friends and clients. He was the midwife to many businesses in Botswana. He was a tax law enforcer. He provided shelter and food to many. Most of all he was a beloved son and brother of the Tshipinare family who shall be missed by his mum, brothers and sisters.

Bowie was an enigma…! Maybe we all are.


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