Worthy of further thought and comment, was Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang’s comparison in the Weekend Post of 29 October of some of the senior makgoa in today’s government with the earlier arrivals here who, he suggested, were in contrast, motivated by their desire to serve this country to the best of their ability.
These dedicated individuals included, he suggested, Patrick van Rensburg, Quill Hermans, Derek Hudson, and Philip Steenkamp. Because Dr Gobotswang’s generalised description applied to so many people of so many different kinds in those early pre-diamond years, I thought that we could try grouping them according to different criteria. Let’s start with van Rensburg, and Liz who hitch hiked down Africa to arrive in Serowe where they were offered jobs teaching in primary schools and a presumably rented rondavel. As far as I know, Werner Groth and family, in Otse, myself (twice), in Mochudi, David Inger in pre-KRDA days in Molepolole and Frank Taylor in Gabane have been the only others to arrive to a completely unstructured situation. By this I refer to the basics which have normally been provided for others – someone to meet new arrivals off the train or plane, a job description and contract, housing, transport and so on.
But then, Pat and Liz, Tom Holzinger, probably and myself in our second incarnations may be the only ones - certainly long term – to get ourselves here under our own steam. Then, we may need to think about the many volunteers who came, stayed on, or later returned. The patriarch of this particular group could be the forester, Ralph Nickerson alias the occasional contributor to the press, Rre Ditlhare. Others in this group would include David Inger, Charley Coyne, Chris Sharp, Brian Ardern, Tom Holzinger and possibly Neil Parsons. But there is another group of remarkable people who arrived here from elsewhere with their service to the country straddling Independence.
They included the old hands such as Minnie Shaw of the 1920s, and the later church leaders such as Urban Murphy and missionaries, Derek Jones and Alfred Lock. Then there was that remarkable group from the Mafikeng Administration, Phil Steenkamp, Alec Campbell, Hugh Murray Hudson and Quill Hermans who took a considerable risk by opting to serve the new but bankrupt country but with some hope of promotion and later, perhaps[s, monetary reward. In contrast, the medical doctors, Alfred Merriweather, G. Teichler, Howard Moffat, GMS Mosam in Lobatse, Karl Seligman and Ian Kennedy together with the two remarkable Mochudi ladies, Elize Cronje and Tannie von Mollendorf of the old Homecraft Centre all worked in a structured situation but then earned only very average salaries and
Somewhere along the line, perhaps as an additional sub group must come Vernon Gibberd and myself, neither having been volunteers with the usual allowance but with a salary, in his case, £600 pounds a year for his first three years – and that with a wife and children. In contrast, I, being single, was lucky enough to be offered £900 a year which was £300 less than I was getting in my job at the time. But then no one offered to pay my mandatory National Insurance contributions. How do you place a Robert Oakeshott who worked here, at Swaneng and Shashe,. for a pittance? Or those who answering adverts, obtained a job and were sent here, such as Gus Nilsson, possibly Frank Taylor and Peter Smith whose background I know nothing, but who I much admired.
Many, subsequently, achieved senior posts in government and or parastatals, and therefore healthy salaries. Gus Nilsson is of major interest in arriving here with a top post which he then dumped when deciding to go it alone by establishing Sanitas. And then in what category would you place someone such as Naomi Mitchison who probably never had a work or residence permit but may have spent more time here over thirty or so years than many of our more recognised candidates!
A category which has to stand on its own, being so distinct, are those, over many years, who have served the San – Willemien and Bram Le Roux, not least and in their different ways, Shelagh Willet and Janet Hermans. But then again, not to be overlooked, are the considerable number of early academics who have served this country mostly from bases outside the country – such as Bob Hitchcock, Ed Wilmsen and Neil Parsons. Assessing the heavy weight contributors, also an almost impossible job, is a different challenge from pinning down those with motivation and commitment. In terms of the latter, risk and self sacrifice would seem to be the key criteria which was Dr Gobotswang’s concern – but then all of those mentioned here would have thought of the opportunity rather than of self sacrifice. Now over to others because no single person can possibly know all the many remarkable people who served this country so brilliantly in its pre-diamond years.