GANTSI: Over the years, his voice has become instantly recognisable on radio, but not many people know Edict Keolopile Dithatho in person.
Soft-spoken Dithatho has earned many fans across the country through his loyal support of Radio Botswana’s various call-in programmes, being one of its most ardent listeners. Born in Tshane, Kgalagadi District 67 years ago, Dithatho of the Bangologa tribe is eloquent in both English and Setswana, despite having a stop-start education. At Independence in 1966, Dithatho was in Standard 6 but spent the next year at home as a teacher suffered a road accident.
“I was not able to complete my junior school because our teacher was involved in a car accident, which meant we had no one to help us sit for our examinations,” Dithatho explains.
Undeterred, he enrolled at the then Lobatse Youth Training Centre for evening classes in Junior Secondary Education in 1968.
He continued at the Centre studying a Building Construction course, which he passed in 1971.
“In 1972 I worked at different companies as a building constructor until I was employed by the Unified Local Government Services and hired for councils. I started working for Gaborone City Council in 1977 and was transferred to Gantsi District Council as a Technical Officer the following year,” says Dithatho.
In later years, he would rotate the local authorities, notching up stints in Jwaneng, Kanye and back to Gaborone as a Senior Technical Officer Building Control section.
Dithatho was further transferred on promotion to North West District Council and eventually returned to the Gantsi District Council where he worked until his retirement in 2007.
“I retired at 60 years and I am now a pensioner and a farmer, with cattle I acquired through purchase.
“Though I come from Tshane, I decided to stay in Gantsi because I have all my assets here. I have two houses in Gantsi and two in Gaborone,” he says.
While his retirement allowed him more time to call-in to his favourite station, Dithatho’s love for the medium began in the Golden Age of Radio.
Legendary presenters such as Rebaone Mookodi, Kgosietsile Mmamapilo, Batho Molema and Geoffrey ‘DJ Shombi’ Motshidisi triggered a love for radio in Dithatho that has never ebbed.
“These men made me fall in love with the radio and I have never looked back. In those days, RB1 was not a 24hr
According to Dithatho, after RB2 opened doors and went 24 hours, he persuaded RB1 management to follow the same route. As the station began 24-hour broadcasts, it would play music from midnight until the next morning show at 0500hrs.
“I quickly realised that many people were unable to sleep because of various reasons such as working nightshifts, social problems or just being nightcrawlers,” he says.
He adds: “I saw that these people needed counselling through the radio and that marked the birth of Kalola Matlho, which we formed with Rre Direlang, Ramontshonyana and another man whose name I have forgotten.”
Through the Kalola Matlho platform, the four men would brainstorm and formulate topics during the day that presenters would then discuss after midnight.
“We changed the programme to Phutha Dichaba, but still kept the same theme. This was more like an association not a radio programme formed by us, but it became so popular that more and more people joined in,” he says.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani launched the association officially in 2004 and today, Phutha Dichaba boasts 50 members from all walks of life around the country.
Its members call-in to various RB1 presenters and are renowned for their advice and opinions in the interests of community and nation-building.
“We have come up with topics that many people have debated or commented on, on radio,” Dithatho says.
“Some of the topics include passion killings, jealousy among people, divorces, break-up of the family, stocktheft, lawlessness among the youth and many others,” he says.
According to Dithatho, many Batswana have embraced the Phutha Dichaba initiative and some have confessed to having been helped through the counselling provided by the call-ins.
Even government has endorsed the association by inviting members to some forums to take part in the topics discussed on the radio.
“We have been invited to Gender Affairs, Ministry of Education and Molemo wa Kgang. This clearly shows that we are doing a tremendous job,” he said.
The father of five plans to spend his years contributing to greater social dialogue and development through the Phutha Dichaba platform.