Saturday, June 15, 2024

Some die young, some die old

I did not immediately feel pain when I heard of the passing of Gomolemo Motswaledi. It took a few moments for the loss to sink in and when it did I remembered the words of Martin Luther King. The American civil rights leader had in his last speech said that he was not afraid to die because he had been blessed to go to the mountain top to see the promised land.

He remarked that even though he may not reach the promised land with his people, he believed that they would get to the promised land. Even though he expressed a desire to live long, such was not the most important thing in his life. All he wanted to do was God’s work. In developed countries they now have 3D printing technology. If this were available to our print houses then I would have been able to include a few tear drops in this passage. I am not aware of any words that can show that someone is in tears on a mass produced newspaper.

If 3D technology were available all the newspaper publishers would do is allow me to shed a few tears and have these placed in the portion where a write up would have been. Every parent who loses a child remarks that it is not right for a parent to bury their own child. The hope is always that the children will bury their parents. Those who subscribe to the faith of a creator accept that being a maker the creator claims the right to break that which it has created. Even though we often search for answers on the passing of one of us, we must never forget that we have a creator and he retains the right to break us. We must also accept that those who die having seen the promised land are blessed in a much greater fashion than those of us who are alive but have never had the privilege to see the promised land.

I am aware of talk doing the rounds that Gomolemo might have been murdered. Rather than make me afraid this talk has only disappointed me. I have no fear at all in my heart. I am however disappointed that if the talk is true, then we have dismally failed to manage our relationships? It is easy to kill, but it takes courage to live with and love an opponent. My father had a book titled the “The last of the just men”. I read this book a long time back and it has stayed in my memory even though the exact story has faded quite a bit. If memory serves me right it was about a man who carried the punishment of his people. The wife endured the pain of being married to this man. I believe we may have some amongst us who have the misfortune to carry the pain for the people of this country.

I say misfortune because it cannot be enjoyable to carry the pain for your people. I believe that in moments of privacy anyone who endures such pain must question their wisdom. Of course the strong ultimately endure the pain for they look to the promised land and not to current events. Our Lord Jesus Christ expressed the desire that the cup pass him, but ultimately submitted his desire to that of our creator. I wish we were a reading nation for I would recommend one of the books that my father made available to me called “ Barlasch of the Guard” having read it at Lovedale Missionary College in 1945. It is a story of love, hate, politics, betrayal, loyalty and good old fashioned self interest.

The lead character is an old soldier who survived in difficult times when Napoleon attacked Russia and overran the Kremlin but spent only one night there. Strangely though the old soldier fought for Napoleon he was loyal to someone who hated the emperor. In it there is a verse that reads “I should fear those that dance before me now. Would one day stamp upon me: it has been done; men shut their doors against a setting sun” There is also a verse that reads “Our wills and fates do so contrary run, that our desires still are overflown. Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own” It is quite clear that the young Motswaledi had people dancing with him when BMD was formed. Some of them shut their doors to the dream when push came to shove. Again he had a desire or will to achieve certain things, but fate has run contrary to his ideas. He will never know where his thoughts ended, for it is now left to others to determine their ends.

It happens to all who set out to lead. I remember that a few months after BMD was formed I wrote a piece that seemed to have rubbed him the wrong way. He called me suggesting that we meet over a cup of coffee so that he could explain himself to me. We never got to meet but we did meet causally around Game City and he remarked that he was still on his way to see me. I guess in the end he understood that he did not have to explain himself to me. In life we sometimes place restrictions and burdens on ourselves such that we have to justify ourselves to fellow human beings. We must understand that we are all complete human beings in our own right, and do not have to explain ourselves to anyone. When Martin Luther King made his last speech he was addressing sanitation workers who were on strike.

I remember how growing up in Gaborone I was fascinated by the garbage collectors as they rushed to grab rubbish bins and throw the waste in the truck and rush to return the bin and hop onto the moving truck. I think I was not alone in looking forward to a career as a sanitation worker. Even today if you observe the behavior of young boys when the rubbish truck passes by, you will see the thrill and desire in their eyes, and if you asked them what they would like to be when they grow up they will say they want to be a sanitation worker. Innocence is such a beautiful thing. The role of the sanitation worker is greatly underestimated by most of us, but a week without them collecting our garbage makes us see their relevance to our lives. Some of our leaders play the function of garbage collectors. We say all sorts of things and express diverse opinions that clearly are of no use to us and they have to stomach this. In the same vein there are some who have to act as garbage collectors in regard to the output of leaders.

The ideal situation is however that leaders should generate as little garbage as possible, for their output is likely to affect more people than that of ordinary individuals. Those in positions of leadership must therefore exercise restraint and prudence. This beautiful country of ours will like most countries go through painful periods. Some of it will come out of limited resources but the most hurtful will be through loss of lives of both young and old. The most we can hope for is that whilst alive our people get an opportunity to be the best that they can be, and to enjoy life to the fullest. We must realize that in this path to enjoyment of our full potential we need not conform to any ideal. We need only accept that each and every one of us has every right to choose their path no matter how it weaves and turns. There are times in life when I gladly concede ground to those who rank above me.

Not because I do not have my own words but rather because it seems the right thing to do. In such situations I do not allow any thoughts that doubt the truth and honesty of the expressed feelings to enter my mind and heart. I have had occasion to read in some of our private press that His Excellency President Ian Khama Seretse Khama has expressed his sympathies and condolences to the Motswaledi family. With this knowledge it is only fitting that lesser mortals like me should find refuge under his message of condolences. I therefore have no words for the Motswaledi family, relatives, friends and the BMD/UDC than to say our president has spoken. It serves no purpose for me to seek to add to the message.

To those who followed him to BMD and onto UDC I say, Martin Luther King went to the mountain top and saw the promised land. His followers did not subscribe to his ideals only while he lived. They continued on the path long after he passed on, and the idea of equality still finds resonance generations after his passing. May the soul of Gomolemo Motswaledi rest in peace.


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