Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The people’s knight rests

This is probably the hardest column for me to write in a long time. It doesn’t make sense to write it. I shouldn’t be writing it. I had thought I would somehow avoid writing about my friend Gomolemo Motswaledi thinking that perhaps much has already been written about him and that another column or another article would have nothing to add. But I cannot deny Sir G, the people’s knight, a proper send off.

Tonight the people’s knight rests; “his body to that pleasant country’s earth, And his pure soul unto his captain Christ, Under whose colours he had fought for so long”. He was not knighted by the queen like Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire. He was knighted by the people. His service to his country was impeccable. Tonight he rests in the company of the heroes and heroines of the world and in the company of our nation’s departed. While the people’s knight rests; the whole nation goes through its blackest night since 1980 when another knight, the Queen’s knight, Sir Seretse Khama rested.

When the BMD was formed, there was a song, a rhythm that characterized the beginning of the movement. “Saulo, Saulo, o mpogisetsang Saulo” The imagery was clear. The cry was poignant. It characterized a belligerent band; an angry bunch, a disappointed lot. The people’s knight changed the melancholic tune into a rousing hymn of prayer that unified a divided and wounded people. With a voice sharpened in the holy pews of UCCSA and crystalized in the majestic KTM choir, he led the movement in a new song. It was a song typical of liberation theology.

Morena o ba etele Bana bohle ba lefifi, Lesedi le ba chabele Ka bophara ba lefatshe. This was a new song crafted in French evangelism amongst the Basotho. It was not a song about the evil Saul and his firm and torturous hand. Instead it was a song about God and his ability to change the sin-blackened hearts of men and women. It was an intercessory melody that looks to God himself as one who has power to transform the human heart. This prayer is for bana botlhe ba lefifi. None is left out. No, and a thousand no, it isn’t just a song about the evil Saul. The nation, ka bophara jwa lefatshe, needs a godly transformation. While the first two lines of the hymn are usually sang in political campaigns followed by the signature thi mai mai thi mai mai, the full weight of the message of the song is felt in the complete lyrics of the hymn and I reproduce them here for the reader: Morena o ba etele?Bana bohle ba lefifi,?Lesedi le ba chabele?Ka bophara ba lefatshe.

Bophelo ke wena fela,?Empa batho ha ba tsebe.?Ba lahlehetswe ke tsela,?ba kgelositswe ke sebe. Tadima bomadimabe?Jwa ba sa tsebeng thapelo;?O ba romele diabi?Tsa ditaba tsa bophelo. Bahlanka ba botshepehi?Ba ke ba rongwe dichabeng,?Ho bolella balahlahi?Jeso ya ba lopolotseng. Moya o latele lentswe?Nageng tsohle moo le rongwang;?Ha le setse le jadilwe,?E be ona o nosetsang. O phakise o bokelle?Bao o ikgethetseng bona;?Re tla nne re ba rapelle;?o re Utlwe ntat’a rona.

That is the Gomolemo Motswaledi I know. He believed in a God of justice ÔÇô not justice in a religious or a legal sense; but in a much deeper, much general level such that the words of Wendell Phillips would be at home on his lips: “infidel to every church that compromises with wrong; traitor to every government that oppresses the people.” He was also a man whose heart was not overwhelmed by hate, revenge and bitterness. He shook hands with his enemies, sat at a table with them and shared a joke ÔÇô a kind act which confused those whose hearts were darkened by hate and bitterness.

Motswaledi was a true patriot as Jeff Ramsay writes elsewhere. He loved Botswana sincerely and seemed to understand completely what it means to sacrifice your life for the country. He had a dream of a different Botswana where, in the words of Amos, “justice rolls like water and righteousness like a mighty stream”. He dared to dream. He dared to believe because he knew that “Our doubts are traitors, ?and make us lose the good we oft might win, ?by fearing to attempt.” Deep in his heart he was convinced beyond any doubt that the trajectory of a nation was lost, that we have betrayed Botswana that we once knew. Like Cicero he was fully aware that “A nation can survive its fools, even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within….for the traitor appears not to be a traitor…he rots the soul of a nation…he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.” On Friday we will bury him in the land of his forefathers.

We will commit his body to the ground and return to our families. When that is all over, we will remain with one thing: an exemplary life; a life lived to the fullest. We will ponder at how he did not have the riches of our world but had something greater; something more precious that “moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves cannot break in and steal.” He had righteousness and an unrelenting spirit and commitment to justice. Botswana has lost one of her finest sons. I am convinced that Motswaledi’s memory will live forever. His ideas and ideals will shape this country and change it forever. Tonight, the people’s knight rests.


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