I have been reading serialized excerpts of former president Festus Mogae’s upcoming memoirs. He adds to a small but growing number of former public leaders who have finally decided to let us in on their formerly inaccessible lives. For a country where someone’s personal life is none of anyone’s business, it makes you wonder why these select few have decided to take the risk of laying bare their linen.
That said, I have since come to the conclusion that not much really comes out of these books, at least the ones I’ve seen so far. There are many controversial things that you hear about public figures, past and present, which you hope could be catalogued in these books since the people writing them were close to if not part of some of them. You expect these people to tell us the truth, without being overly formal and diplomatic about things.
However, what you get are memoirs that read like school text books, heavily lacking in style and just plain empty of interesting detail. I am tired of people talking about growing up in the harsh dark ages; how their parents toiled to send them to school; how they went to England where they were the best in their university all the time. First of all, I think it’s a lie and pitiful self promoting vanity the idea that a poor African can go overseas and just beat everyone in class. This is the stuff you find in many of these books; while I don’t doubt that Africans can beat anyone they want in class, I don’t believe that all of the people writing these books were all smart and always buried everyone in class. What were the smart rich white students doing letting poor Africans whoop their bottoms in school all the time? Too good to be true!
David Magang’s book, while far from being a masterpiece, came close to doing what I want these books to do with the detail on his enmity with Kwelagobe. I like these sort of personal stories because they show you what these guys think of themselves, influential events and other people; but just when I was starting to enjoy the book, Magang came out accusing Batswana of being phenomenally dull when it came to reading. He was quoted saying that if you wanted to hide something from Batswana, just put it in the middle of a book; I think it was his way of saying this country is full of stupid people, also a funny way of explaining why people were not interested in his book. Many people laughed and thought that the man was funny for saying this. I didn’t. I thought the joke was in bad taste and typical of Africans who think nothing of people when they have made it in life. I simply dumped the book in a bin and never once felt guilty about never having finished it. First of all I got it for free, and from what I later gathered it had no chapters on girls and mischief that is expected of every normal black person in their productive life. So, I was not going to spend my time reading lies and the drivel on politics because we all know politicians tell truth the way it suits them.
Powerful public figures generally tend to have interesting and very scandalous lives. If I read one of these memoirs and find no personal scandal of the author or one about whom is written, I simply toss the book in the bin the way I tossed Magang’s book. I don’t like lies and snobbery. Retired public figures know many controversial things; either of themselves or of other people. I don’t see why these things can’t be featured in these books because we all know that these people are no angels. They also know many legendary stories involving their old friends- whose rumours we pick in hushed chit-chats in bars and funerals; their buddies who committed scandals that even newspapers found it hard to print for fear of being sued and god-knows-what-else. These are the stories that they should write along with their own controversial things.
Take for instance the story that you and I have heard, of a man who died of a heart-attack who was in a very high public office. This man is said to have been stealing public money and entrusting it to a bosom friend of his, knowing he‘d take it back when he retired. The story goes that when he finally retired, he went to this friend of his and said to him, hey buddy, can I now I have that parcel back? To which his friend is said to have reacted with pale ignorance and asked: Parcel? What parcel? What parcel are you talking about? When the former very important man clarified, his friend is said to have told him to go jump off a cliff because he doesn’t know what he is talking about. We are told that the former public figure thought his buddy was fooling around at first but as they say, the rest is history; the man died of a heart-attack, shocked by how his right-hand man and friend pretended not to know anything of his hard-stolen cash which they had agreed would be returned to him on retirement. This story, apparently explains how this friend ended up the stinking rich and quite the Teflon Don he was. Now can anyone put this story in their book, please? I’m sure there are enough retired public figures who knew one of our two friends well enough to take interest in telling everyone what they thought of the whole thing.
This is why I am betting on Mogae’s upcoming book; I am looking forward to reading on his intrigues with his late “rich friend Mochindo” and what they got up with their famous girls!