Friday, October 23, 2020

The messenger who became a reporter

He roars like a lion weekdays on Radio Botswana’s popular news programme, Tatediso ya Dikgang.

His ability to report news with a uniquely clear voice has distinguished him from the rest. He has attracted rural dwellers to current affairs as he uses the language they understand the most – Setswana.

Mojaboswa Jabeng evolved exceptionally from a messenger to reporting news in the Department of Information Services.

The veteran writer discloses in an interview that he was born in 1958 in a ward called Xhosa II in Mahalapye. However, his father, Baitshupile Jabeng, originates from Makolori Ward in Serowe while the mother, Seanokeng, comes from a village near Serowe called Moiyabana.

Jabeng was born the only boy child with seven sisters. Three of his siblings have since passed away while four remain.

He points out that he didn’t grow up with his family. He says he lived with his grandparents who believed more in farming, adding that is why at some point in Standard Seven he was advised to drop out of school to work for the welfare of his siblings more so that he was a boy.

He reveals that he started his primary at Tamocha Primary School in Mahalapye in 1967. That is when, in 1973, he dropped out of school for work. He said that one of his relatives was angry at his parents for keep him out of school and took him to Tsienyane Primary School in Boteti to finish his Standard Seven.

The sensational Setswana reporter hints that he did not proceed to secondary school then. He instead joined the Madiba Farmers Brigade in Mahalapye, which, like other brigades, such as Swaneng and Shashe, are ideas from Patrick Van Ransburg, the pioneer of education with production.

Jabeng said he stayed in the school for two years and was taught various aspects of Agriculture, such as Animal Husbandry, Poultry, and Crop Production, among others.

Among some of the lecturers who taught him, he remembers Mareledi Giddie, Lenyeletse Koma and Paul Masweunyana. He reveals that after completion of his studies with other colleagues, there was an idea from the school management that they be helped to form an agricultural company. However, the idea failed because some parents of the graduates felt their children may be cheated along the way.

Jabeng narrate that he then moved to Gaborone in search of a job. He said he found a job in the Ministry of Agriculture as a temporary supervisor for eight months. When the job finished, he landed at the President Hotel where he did some odd jobs around 1976.

He moved back home to Mahalapye in 1978 and joined a local football club called Rangers as a defender. Rangers assisted him to find a job and he found himself as a labourer at the Roads Department where his father was a driver.

In 1979, he attracted the eye of the Mahalapye Hotspurs officials. They wanted him to join their team but Rangers was never going to take that lightly. He said they insisted that they are the ones who found him a job and he was not going anywhere.

There was tussle between the two teams. But with the intervention of the Botswana Football Association (BFA), he finally joined Mahalapye Hotspurs which was in the First Division at that time.

He mesmerised some of his opponents, among others former Gaborone United maestro, Spokes Gaborone and Matshediso Sexteen Kowa, who according to Jabeng was a goalkeeper for Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
He says some Hotspurs officials managed to find him a job in the Department of Information Services as a messenger, adding that he used to do other odd jobs, such as cleaning the offices.

Jabeng reveals that there was at some point a shortage of reporting staff and a colleague in the department, Legooramotho Otimile, gave him some lessons on how to write news, adding that he used to send some of his stories to Otimile who advised him on various aspects of journalism.

With additional guidance from his former boss, Kwapeng Modibe, who headed the Mahalapye Office, Jabeng was able to improve with time.

He says he chose to report in Setswana because he wanted a language he understood better, adding that he wanted to decrease the probability of misquoting his sources.

At the time, he was enjoying the job and admired senior reporters in his field, such as Kgosietsile Mmamapilo and Esther Kanaimba (Senai) now Debswana Head of Public Relations.

In 1989, he was included in a Basic Journalism course at the Department’s training unit. That is where he and other trainees received lessons from the likes of Russ Molosiwa (Kutlwano), Banyana Segwe (former Btv boss), Gerald Kamanga, who he said was from Malawi, and some lecturers from the University Of Botswana. He said the academics came with other diversified media related courses. He remembers among others his former colleagues, Kitso Simon, Chris Mbula and Kebaeditse Baitlotli.
He was then transferred to Letlhakane after completion of his studies, a move that did not go down well with him.

He then went back to Mahalapye in 2002 to be near his ailing parents. Jabeng also boosts that he is the one who agitated for the current information Services office near Mahalapye Main kgotla to be built because the office that they were operating in was worn out.

“I am proud that by then, he was able to guide some young journalists to grow in the field,” he said. “These include the likes of Thabani Shabani, Moses Bakoko, Archibald Ngakayagae and Kagiso Tshwene, who is apparently now a politician.”

Jabeng is, however, concerned that most young reporters in this country are not interested in reporting in Setswana. He urges local publications to include supplements in Setswana.
“I miss the days of Mokgosi, which was the pride of Batswana.”

Jabeng planted a good legacy in the field of journalism.

“I am not a journalist; I’m a messenger,” he says.

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