I have never struggled so much to pen a piece like I did with sharing my thoughts about the woman I loved so much, Botlhoko Beata Kasale-Kabango. Her sudden passing from heart failure due to her long battle with sugar diabetes on Monday had my world thrown out of balance.
How does someone like AusiB, as she was affectionately known, just drop out of the face of the earth and life just goes on? It does not. It stops for a moment only to spin a little out of control before falling back on some strange new course.
For the many years I have come to know Beata, the media professional and activist of the high order, I have only got to realise she was not well on a few occasions. She would be seated, chatting, offering this and that advice, even through long telephone conversations. Unless you are too observant, you would not know she was in pain. In fact, I would be with her, wallowing in self-pity, and a few days later, I would hear a family member or her colleague say she had been hospitalised or had been home unwell.
And that is exactly what happened in the last few days of her life. Two days before AusiB was hospitalised at Bokamoso Private Hospital in Mmopane, I had a long conversation with her, about my space in life, the challenges in the media, but mainly politics, my husband’s ‘shocking’ defection from the Botswana National Front to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. For her strong call for a united opposition, I will openly share today that MmaKasale was not the happiest with what was happening in the opposition ranks, and was not even surprised by the recent defections. In her counsel, over our last call, she shared some political wisdom that will help me navigate forward, and I believe she has imparted the same on those who had paid her a visit of recent.
On that day, I was supposed to do my monthly drop-offs of live chickens that I supplied to her haven place of the latter days, Marokolwane farm in the Kgatleng District, but had to cancel last minute because of other commitments. The plan was to deliver this Saturday.
Oh Lord! Have mercy! It’s 4am as I finally pen this and I just had a look outside. In the garden where the free range chickens are, I see the sleeping white brood under the trees and I am all a mess.
The journey from my home in Thamaga, in the Kweneng District to Marokolwane farm is over 100 kilometres, but even in my distaste for driving of late, I am never bothered because a visit to that place is always refreshing; not only because of the ever-changing developments, but also the company. She would always be there, seated under the thatched patio with her laptop, cellphones, the many dogs of many breeds we exchanged over the years, including her spoilt and snappy poodles, family members, workers and ever so charming grandchildren, popularly referred to as ‘glanchildlen’. Oh yes! You could always be assured of frequent interruption of neighbours from the masimos around, or from the village of Rasesa a few kilometres back. Going to Marokolwane, or Maroks, or Rock City as it has come to be known in her writings and that of the children and older grandchildren, always brought the best out of most of us. You could never leave without having shared and received words of wisdom. Time and again, you would get goodies in the form of farm produce – mmidi, merogo of sorts (morogo wa dinawa, rape, and spinach), herbs, butternuts and even tshotlho. I mention these because despite it being home the farm was also a business run by her husband Patrick Kabango, and its produce distributed through one of The Voice’s and MmaKasale’s most trusted employees; Unity Tladi from Kgale Mews office. You arrive at Maroks, and she would call whoever is at hand to package something for you. And that was AusiB, giving was second nature to her.
I am here on a cold morning supposed to tell the world about this hard working professional and renowned activist, but I cannot. I am failing because all I want to tell of this woman is of her beautiful heart. A tough smart businesswoman she was; for unless there is a magic pill to success out there, not many who are not trained, nor even possess business degrees, would take a school newsletter, The Francistowner of my former school Mater Spei College in Francistown, and turn it into the highest selling newspaper in the country, The Voice.
Not every personal assistant would travel the world to offer her services as a writer, graphic designer, media consultant and mentor; an activist - the voice of the voiceless, the indigenous people of the Kgalagadi - while also pushing the media, gender and HIV/AIDS agendas. That was Beata Kasale, the professional, the mentor, the activist and the publisher.
But that story can be told by veteran media professionals borre Methaetsile Leepile, Titus Mbuya, Modise Maphanyane, Jeff Ramsay, and others such as Professor Sheila Tlou, Minister Unity Dow, and her good friend from the First Peoples of the Kalahari, Roy Sesana. Mine is to recognise, appreciate and mourn a friend, a mentor and a sister. You will forgive me, but there are tears all over my notepad as I pen this.
This is the woman, who as her employee back in 2010 and The Voice editor would not let me quit when my health was failing me. I arrived at Maroks not too well and offered to step down. Instead of agreeing that my health was interfering with the stressful work, she asked what it was that management could do to make it easier. I laid it on the table, and one of the things she picked without me expressing it, was that mobility (both on my physical being and on the road) would ease things. A few days later, the finance manager called me into her office, wondering what kind of vehicle would be ideal for me.
I said, “What?”
Ausi Sadi said, “Ao Pam, AusiB gaa go bolelela gore o rekelwa koloi?”
In fact, AusiB was more than a boss she became the friend I have known for close to three decades. I first met Beata when I was a few months into journalism back in 1991. A funny meeting it was. We had been part of the Botswana contingent on an Air Botswana launch of their first flight to Windhoek, Namibia. After the then president Sir Ketumile Masire cut the ribbon, and the party left for a state banquet, I tagged along with the late senior boys of journalism, Rampholo ‘Chamza’ Molefhe and Sekgopi Tsitle to Beata’s house in the Windhoek suburbs. Though we conversed in Setswana, I spent the night of dancing and chatting, thinking this Namibian woman is so smart. In the morning, we dragged ourselves to the Kalahari Sands Hotel only to be informed that the party had left for the airport, and the then Press Attaché to the Botswana Mission, Andrew Sesinyi had our luggage and passports. We jumped into a taxi, without even a shower or brushing of teeth, headed to the airport where on arrival we found the AB chartered flight, with the president and crew in it, on the tarmac warming up. Hehe! This is not funny, but it is true. We ran past officials, flew over the security gates, onto the tarmac with security and police officers on our trail, grabbed onto the aircraft door as it was being lifted up to close. In there we found a puzzled, and even laughing Botswana delegation. A few days later, Beata called Mmegi offices, and asked me how I could be that stupid to follow those rebels; Rampholo and Sekgopi. She was worried we could have been shot, and that was when she revealed she had known about me personally, from her friendship with my late brother, Omphile. We clicked since then, and for years always somehow crossed paths.
Recently, when I was going through a personal challenge with a mutual friend, AusiB called me to Maroks, and said something to the effect that “Ke sa le ke lo itsile as young hard headed women and I love you both. Mme jaanong le nkgogela kwa le kwa. E kgang e tshwanetse e hele, botshelo bo bokhutshwane…”
When I heard of her passing, I swore that I would reconcile with my colleague, if not for us but for the memory of a woman who gave, gave and gave, without ever seeking anything in return.
A woman who, in professional and personal spaces, you would always find surrounded by family. I was thinking of her big sister and wondering how Ausi Kelly is, and how she will cope. My thoughts have been on that quiet shy son, Tsitsi, the father to the glanchildlen. My heart broke when I spoke to him on Monday, and I could hardly hear his inaudible voice. I recall years back when he got married to beautiful Dire, ‘Mother of the Kasales’ as AusiB affectionately referred to her. Beata called me and said “Tsitsi is too uncomfortable having a pastor he doesn’t know blessing their marriage. Would you do it?”
I said, “I am not a pastor”.
She said, “You are a Christian, you know the Bible, all Tsitsi wants is for you to read ‘the rites’”. And it was done, there under the newly built wooden shed at the gates of Marokolwane farm yard, in the presence of some of the leading ministers of the Word, amongst them farm neighbour and then president of the Apostolic Faith Mission and the Evangelical Fellowship Botswana, Dr Johannes Kgwarapi. Whenever I see the smiling couple, I am blessed.
And then there is Gomolemo, who has grown into a beautiful ever smiling but shrewd business executive. A call to him was easier as the current general manager of The Voice newspaper, had more calm and audible voice, even through tears. I admire what AusiB has done with these young men, their siblings, cousins and children. I have yet to see a strong, united, dedicated, obedient and hard-working team of young people. I remember a day after Tsitsi’s son, Otsile, acquired his driver’s licence, AusiB threw the keys of her brand new double cab Ford Ranger at him and told him to collect something from my home. He grabbed a cousin on the way, they had no idea where Thamaga is, and he was a nervous wreck when they finally made it after getting lost many times. Since, he always found a reason to ‘dash’ to Thamaga to share his ambitions. A young man with a good head on his shoulders, and I have seen that in AusiB’s children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
I could share more if this was space for a book, the one we have talked about and I pray God grants me and all others the platform to write that biography about the woman who touched our lives, with her open hands, home and loving heart. But I need to stop here to allow all to mourn in peace. All I can say, shattered as I am... we are, is thank you. Thank you for sharing your life. Thank you for the beauty of your life. Thank you for being the anchor, and mentor of my life. I should say I am lost without you, but I am not. For you have anchored me well. Loads of love my friend. As your many other mentees, especially those from the international Women In Media (WINners) project that you have been passionately pushing over the past eight years would say, “you are physically gone, but remain in us”. Rest my Lady, rest!