Saturday, December 3, 2022

Two Good Men ÔÇô Mpho and Campbell (Part 2)

In this instalment we continue our tribute to the late Alec Campbell (1932-2012) and Motsamai Mpho (1921-2012), which we began last week with the observation that while their life stories and contributions to our country and beyond are quite distinct, both men were generous, principled and dedicated servants of society.

Sir Ketumile Masire, who was a witness from the near beginning of each of their local careers, has paid them individual tribute. Below are excerpts.

Masire on his former Tiger Kloof classmate Mpho, while speaking at this week’s Memorial Service. –

“One issue I can still remember was when the Opposition was very vocal about “Government’s lack of public pronouncement in Parliament and elsewhere about what their defensive position was against the offensive from Rhodesia and South Africa”. I informed them, as the then Leader of Government business, that I was prepared and willing to share with them in confidence what plans Government had in mind, since divulging what we were doing or intended to do would give our enemies the opportunity to plan on how to counteract.

“To avoid “Go ratela phuthi re rwele matlhawa”, Rre Mpho was quick to say “telling them in confidence would be welcomed since that is what he would do if he were running the country. Rre Mpho was a very responsible and responsive gentleman. He was sincere to his views. Even if one disagreed with him one would not fail to realise that what he said was what he sincerely believed in. And what I think people value most in a politician is the sincerity to honestly say and do what one believes in.”

And from Masire’s condolence letter to the family of his friend and fellow Botswana Society founder Campbell –

“Alec will always be remembered for his commitment and zeal during the formative years of Independent Botswana, having served in various capacities in Government and civil society. As a man of great disposition, he was held in high esteem by his family and friends alike. A master of his craft, a rare genius, Alec Campbell’s name will stand high in the records of fine achievements in the field of history and archaeology.

“Even more than this, he will always be remembered for his immense contribution towards the socio-economic development of Botswana, when it was so greatly needed. To this end, the Campbell family and the people of Botswana were truly blessed with a man who gave his vision for prosperity, development and cultural heritage such definite form and so noble a purpose.”

Early in his Presidency, Sir Ketumile also bestowed the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service (PMS) medal on both gentlemen, which is an honour that is awarded by the President, usually with the advice of Cabinet, to any person for “actions or services benefiting Botswana or any community organisation therein in any particular field or sphere and for any acts of courage or devotion to duty.”

Here also we find qualities that were shared by the two departed.

Mpho received his PMS in September 1981, being one of the first two medal recipients so honoured by the former President.

For his contributions to the Republic, Campbell received his PMS in September 1983. He was also, back in 1966, awarded with an MBE by the outgoing colonial administration. According to Sir Peter Fawcus this was in appreciation for his role in conducting Botswana’s first house to house census and additional contributions to the transition to independence.

Like Masire, Mpho was a commoner who made it to Tiger Kloof due to his brilliance but, perhaps even more importantly, tenacity as a student working against great personal odds. As he points out in his autobiography, before 1935 there was only one primary school in the Gatawana reserve, which then catered to the Batswana living in Maun. To overcome this deficit Motsamai’s uncle Moengwe Mpho started a school for the predominately Wayeyi community at Nokaneng. It was there that Motsamai began his formal primary school education at the age of 15.

By 1938 Motsamai’s academic promise had impressed the Director of Education, Mr. Dumbrell, who arranged his for transfer to the Batawana National School in Maun, which was then managed by the London Missionary Society. There he began Standard 3 under the care of its legendary head-teacher Mr. Job Gagushe. In 1940 Mpho was one of only two boys to pass Standard 5, which back then was the school’s leavers’ class.

Mpho’s future education then seemed uncertain as his family did not have the resources for his further studies, which for most people back then meant going to a school in South Africa. But, he along with Masire numbered among the first students of non-royal background to obtain a bursary for further studies at Tiger Kloof.

There, in addition to Masire, Mpho’s contemporaries included Monare Gaborone, G.A.T. Gare, Edison Masisi, Bias Mookgodi, Moutlakgola Nwako; Bonewamang Sechele and Joe Seboni.

Masire this week observed that he really got to know Mpho through their participation in extramural or club activities in Form 3. In his autobiography Mpho confirms his then keenness for clubs, more especially the Builders Club for trades and crafts, which he started and led with Monare Gaborone as his deputy.


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