Dubani wa Dubani was one of my best press buddies though our paths always ran parallel when it came to which paper we worked for. He was always The Voice man, whereas I worked for numerous other publications whose number I could not finish counting on my 10 fingers!
Dubani worked for The Voice, either freelancing or on a full time basis, all the time. To his early grave, Dubani never wavered in his dedication for The Voice and particularly co-founder, Beata Kasale, who usually treated employees of the newspaper as if they were family.
Dubani, or DwD as we got to call him, covered mostly sports for The Voice. One such story was a blow-by-blow account of the trip to South Africa of the Zebras under the tutelage of Serbian coach Jelusic Veselin, who had turned the fortunes of the team around such that it was now on everyone’s lips.
The story started with Dubani preparing for the trip, then meeting the players and coach and then travelling across the border. It included the trip back to Botswana, after conquering our giant neighbours. The story also had pictures to complement the article alongside. Such detail, graphic and dramatic style of writing is what stood Dubani apart.
Whenever we met, it was as if we worked together, the way our ideas and comments complemented each other.
The meetings could be over a puff of smoke and a glass of hooch, but each time we never parted ways without discussing ideas or newspaper articles and agreeing on the best approaches.
The last time we set eyes on each other was in 2012, but the encounter for me is as if it was just yesterday. I was passing in front of The Voice at Mangwele-a-Maswe, an office complex that had just been built on Blue Jacket Street and saw Dubani standing with co-founder of the paper, Don Moore.
As I approached, Dubani was saying, and pointing: “Hey Don, do you know this guy? He’s my mentor you know?”
“Yeah I know him. Ooh he is your mentor? No wonder you’re just as wayward!” Moore joked and we then all laughed and shook hands. Moore knew me from the time The Voice was starting out. Moore was a teacher at Mater Spei who decided to start a newspaper which initially was called The Francistowner, but that name gave way to The Voice after a little while-a year or so perhaps.
A South African refugee by the name of Frans Pale and myself helped with distribution of the paper in Gaborone.
New as it was then, The Voice was the most unloved paper at the time. I would lug a suitcase of the newspapers on to the night train from Francistown and in the morning as I arrived in Gaborone, I would get busy hawking it.
Only a few would buy the copies. Usually, when I later retired home in the evening and started balancing the numbers, there would be less than 10 copies sold. Anymore than that would be a bonus.
At one point I would just dump the papers when I realised nobody was showing me any interest as passers-by looked at me as if I was a nauseating cockroach as I sat at a strategic place within the railway and taxi station displaying the papers.
Going to Francistown also entailed dropping stories and helping to do some more while there.
For instance, as the Rwanda genocide petered out somewhere in the middle of the 1990s, I travelled to Dukwi Refugee Camp with the now also late Beata in a beat-up van. There we met freshly arrived refugees from Rwanda who told us harrowing stories and how they escaped being also annihilated with the plus-800,000 others.
One man told us that as he was knocking off from work around 5pm, he found everyone inside the house dead: wife, children, some visitors, inside wardrobes, in the bedroom, toilet and even sprawled out by the gate, where he first found the first corpse.
The man said he never
In Francistown when I first arrived in 2006 to freelance for Mmegi and The Monitor newspapers, which were, and are still at Ngilichi House at the corner of Haskins Street and Selous Avenue, The Voice was operating from offices on Haskins Street. But the offices moved just across the street to Blue Jacket where later they again moved to newly opened Mangwele-A-Leswe.
The high-rise building, across the street from the market place where office workers converged every weekday at lunch, emerged from what used to be an eyesore of a place in the middle of what was supposed to be a city.
I passed the new offices of The Voice each time I either walked to or from the town centre to my place of abode at Donga and one day, I encountered Dubani just by the Magistrate’s courts. He fell into step with me and we leisurely walked to my place.
Usually when we met, the talk will start with “Hello Bra Gale!” (spelt like another name for hailstorm in English) and a collision of the fists like Rastafarians do.
I had shortened my name to “Gale” during the halcyon days of good journalism, in the late 1980s up to early 1990s.
My colleagues then at the Botswana Gazette, starting with the deputy editor, Nicholas Sebolao, senior reporter, Abraham Motsokono, reporters, Bernard Ragalase and Meshack Moeti shortened theirs to Nick, Abe, Bern and Mesh respectively.
It just came to my mind to do so because my doting mother, beloved beyond the grave, used to call me “Gale” after I had accomplished an errand she had sent me on, or when she wanted to give me some good tidings. Hence, everyone else just called me Gale, instead of the longish Galebolae.
So it has been “Gale” or Bra Gale ever since and Dubani in his baritone would say, “Hey Gale, you know you were one of the people who inspired me greatly”.
Dreadlocked and always in casual jeans and t-shirts, Dubani was the quintessential journalist who walked almost everywhere with his camera, notebook and pen. Though a lot of reporters seemed to hanker after some limelight, Dubani lived amongst the povo and his stories for The Voice always mirrored the society of the downtrodden.
Now it seems he has joined a host of others who lovingly called me “Gale” like my mother, his former boss Beata, my other colleagues, both who are alive and who are dead and even a man called Osmo Welling from faraway Finland in Europe.
One day in Windhoek, Namibia I had a lala vuka (overnight drinking session) at a club in the Namibian capital city such that in the morning I was so smashed at the breakfast table I kept dropping my head and speaking incoherently.
Osmo, camera in hand, exclaimed from across the table in corrupt English, “Gale! Go under I take pictsa!”
I narrated the story of my drunkenness to Dubani that day as we leisurely walked to my Donga lodging where we sat in the backyard to shoot the breeze.
Until news filtered through that my guy had departed this world, I had no doubt that we would meet again and we would talk some more. Death you are so cruel! How can you leave me so bereft of my friends, relatives colleagues etc?
Rest in peace DwD. May your loved ones including children, relatives and other friends be consoled in the knowledge that you left a legacy in the pages of The Voice, which will be read by generations to come.