Many tributes have been written and delivered in honour of the late Prof Thomas Tlou – in the media, at the UB memorial service, and at the church funeral service. Many of these focussed on his illustrious career as a renowned historian, writer and academic giant. Many others testified to his humility, warmth, humour and generosity of heart.
For me, the most moving was the eulogy delivered by his wife, Professor Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, who stoically shared the memories of her husband’s rich life and illness with mourners at the church service. This unusual though most welcome occurrence in the rather conservative area of our funeral rituals has moved me to add my voice to the many tributes to the unique life of Tom Tlou.
Although, like numerous others, I worked at UB under the mentorship of Prof Tom Tlou, and can attest to his leadership and academic qualities, mine is a more personal tribute to Rakgosi, the husband and father, and uncle to many of us.
Those of us who have been to the Tlou household over the years, and watched the Tlous live their simple life together, raise their children and those of other people, will confirm that theirs was an exemplary marriage and family. Many of us Sheila’s friends will openly confess that we experienced a slight tinge of envy at the way Rakgosi doted on her; even spoilt her, incessantly showering her with compliments!
When Dinotshe acted at Maitisong as Precious Ramotswe of the Ladies No 1 Detective fame, I will never forget the proud look on Rakgosi’s face throughout, and the twinkle in his warm eyes. ‘ Ah, ke Mmakgosi yoo, a woman of many talents’, he chuckled during the intermission.
This is what inspired one of the ladies in our circle of friends to entitle recent emails we exchanged following Rakgosi’s demise ‘the good husband of zebra drive’ from which the title of this tribute is drawn .
And he loved children, not only his own; he gave them his time and attention. As some of us went through the rites of passage, married and raised our own families, Rakgosi would never fail to ask: ‘ setogolo, how are the boys! And the mokgwenyana! Ah, ba dumele ditogolwana tseo’. This always said from the heart, with genuine concern and a warm smile.
When Sheila was nominated to Parliament, and appointed Minister of Health, it was a moment of pride for her husband, rather than a threat to his achievements and authority. He encouraged her as much as he did when she was an academic, and gave her plenty of room to blossom, rather than stifle her because she might steal the limelight. And all this was appreciated and reciprocated many-fold by the vivacious Dinotshe, another loving and caring person who had obviously met her match.
As I have reflected on the events of the past weekend during which we bid Rre Tlou farewell, I realise that we can indeed learn a lot from this brilliant, though big hearted man, his values and the way he related to his family and community.
It is my sincere hope that we can use these lessons to the benefit of our families, community and country. He will be deeply missed by all of us, but he leaves a legacy of which Sheila and the family can rightly be proud.
May his soul find eternal rest.
*Dr. Molokomme is Attorney General and a former colleague to the late professor Thomas Tlou