Mmegi Blogs :: Jerry Gabaake and Jake Swartland - Who Got the Wheels Turning
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Jerry Gabaake and Jake Swartland - Who Got the Wheels Turning

Of the two, I knew Jerry particularly well. He had arrived in Mochudi in perhaps 1962 to teach at the National School at a monthly salary of something like R6.00. He was also a key person in the Teachers' Union.
By Sandy Grant Mon 30 Apr 2018, 13:46 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Jerry Gabaake and Jake Swartland - Who Got the Wheels Turning

By the time that I started working in Gaborone in early 1968, he had become the Principal of the Camp School in Gaborone and then of the Lesedi Primary School.

 In what was then a very small town, Eleanor Gabaake stood out a mile because she was voluble, trenchant, instinctively combative and in addition, a Town Councillor. In contrast, Jerry was also forthright but was less in the limelight than Eleanor.

Both stood their ground and became involved in fierce battles with the establishment. Skipping over his business partnership with Paul Rantao, Jerry became a nominated BDP MP in the 1994-1999 Parliament.

For those five years, and probably more, he became the BDP’s mouthpiece, always ready to pick up the cudgel on just about every controversial topic on which he would forcefully comment.

Neither before nor since, has the BDP had anyone else capable of taking on such a role. Checking him on the internet there appears, his 2008 curious rebuttal of Spencer Mogapi’s predictions and concerns for the next 10 years. In retrospect Jerry’s comments do not read well. Nor has the time been kind to his unfortunate observation that only those with skeletons in their cupboard had reason to fear the new Security Bill and the DIS. But he was not the only one. To me, his standpoint on this issue appears surprising for anyone coming here from apartheid South Africa.

Perhaps he became an establishment figure having previously been so often at odds with it. It happens. Looking back, I suggest that Jerry was without doubt a major figure during the country’s first 50 years.

He was not the sort of person who routinely features in such lists because he had held high office. But it is those like Jerry who helped to build a new community and to give it character and life who need sensible recognition. He began his working career in this country in Mochudi. As far as I am concerned, he also ended it there being an invaluable member of the Phuthadikobo Museum Board of Trustees which was dismantled in 2007 on instruction from an Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and its members, such as Jerry, swept aside.

But in the end, I go back to his involvement with the BTU whose Executive in the mid to late 1960s was President, PM Matoane, Vice President, G Kgomanyane, General Secretary, KG Kgoroba, Treasurer, GN Kgotlana, Chairman Education Committee,


J Moilwa, Editor, Jake Swartland, Organiser South, Jerry Gabaake and Organiser North, RN Mpabanga. I believe that Jerry and Jake were the last survivors of that very distinguished band of pioneers. But who now remembers or even cares?

The BTU? But then the same is sadly true of so many other areas of life. We live for today and casually forget the past when so much had its beginnings. Quite rightly, the athletes who competed in the Commonwealth Games have been welcomed home as heroes. And how marvelous that Amantle could return after her nightmarish year and win gold.

But who now remembers those few who, in difficult circumstances, got the wheels turning, it being 40 years ago that the BAA was set up by General Merafhe, Norman Mangoye, Derek James, Julia Jartby and Jake Swartland with Robert Chideka soon to enlist himself and with Tony Lett, the national coach.

In those days there was no funding whatsoever from Government. Things changed as a result of the coaching of Driver Motlokwa, Justice Dipeba, and Glody Dube and latterly with the backing of the now ex-President. My own view has always been that it was Glody, the first to participate in an Olympic final, who opened the door for others to follow. But now we have Makwala arguing that the focus should be on grassroots development. How can he be wrong? Spain can only be producing its seemingly endless stream of quality tennis players by helping them when young. And what about Kenya and Jamaica, both churning out a non-stop line of really great athletes?

It cannot happen by accident. But if leaders of the government and the corporate world continue to sideline today’s BAA, there cannot be much hope of progress. But does this all come down to the need for additional, hugely expensive stadiums as recently announced by Minister Olopeng?

How can he justify this proposal when one of its flagships stadiums, in Molepolole, has been left deserted and unused for many long past years? We visited the place recently and it was sad and depressing.

What has gone wrong there and what he will need to do avoid it happening with all the others that he is now proposing to create? Clearly, the use of money alone as a government mechanism for achieving development and change, has failed. Now, it does have a real opportunity to reassess, re-think, re-group.

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