Homage to Reginald Tebogo Selelo

Death has a callous way of shattering hearts that brim with hope. A profoundly warm larger-than-life figure has fallen asleep! A dwarfy towering giant. A modest self-confident character.

One is compelled to use these fitting but seemingly contradictory adjectives to describe the great personality that was exuded by the iconic giant. I had the privilege to work with Reginald at BEDIA, BITC’s forerunner, where he had come on board as a junior research officer. The more I got well acquainted with him, the more I appreciated his great qualities as a human being and a professional colleague.

Reginald had a string of letters following his names. Despite this, not being one to rest on his oars, at the time of his demise, he was pursuing a doctoral programme. He was allergic to playing in the zone delineated for mere mortals. His thirst for knowledge was unparalleled. Through his resourcefulness, he succeeded in crafting for himself a space in the Ivy League! Only a few would ever match the scale of achievement of this impassioned go-getter. Had Reginald been a footballer he would have played with the likes of Ronaldinho, arguably the finest player to ever grace the premier football world. Had he been an athlete he would have raced with Bolt, the fastest sprinter in the history of world athletics. And had he been a car racing enthusiast, he would have raced with the likes of Hamilton, the greatest Formula One driver of all times.

Reginald was never lulled into complacency, and perhaps that explains why he would often challenge himself to step out of comfort zones. Keen to develop himself, and embrace new challenges, his career path took him around high-profile organisations, such as BEDIA, the USAID Trade and Investment Hub, SACU and BITC. At the time of his death, Reginald occupied the second highest ranking position at BITC. He served as the organisation’s Chief Operations Officer. At no time did his appointment to this much-coveted position ever monsterise him into a professional Goliath. His death was met by collective bereavement, particularly across state owned establishments explicitly mandated to create sustainable employment opportunities for Batswana and grow the national economy. During the memorial conducted in his honour by his colleagues at BITC, one could sense the depth of his footprint on the business landscape in the country. This leviathanic researcher and economist must have left a huge void. I would not be surprised if he topped the institution’s succession planning list for the CEO position.

I wonder if Reginald knew the extent to which he had touched the lives of many. The outpouring of messages of heartfelt support, commiseration and condolences that flooded the social media space must have emotionally overwhelmed his friends, family, and colleagues. Although these are important in the process of giving the much-needed comfort to surviving relatives and kick-starting the vital process of healing, I tend to believe that in most cases, we are a little tardy as we often convey our expressions of encomium when our loved ones can no longer respond. Like many who knew him well, I too was touched by Reginald’s death, and felt obliged to share veritable panegyric memorial embers, with the hope that this would offer comfort to his loved ones.

Reginald’s sense of reasoning was way above average.

He always sought to make a meaningful contribution and would not recklessly cop out of important debates. At all forums he attended, Reginald’s demeanour was never dilettantish in nature. He would, when called upon to step up, not shy away from persuasively addressing critical issues without necessarily obscuring crucial points with specious, wild, and tendentious arguments. Figuratively fixed to the belt girded around his hips was always a durable and inexhaustible quiver filled with sharp arrow-like nuggets that rarely missed their mark. In articulating his points, Reginald would accentuate the vocalisation of key issues with an enviable voice projection festooned with a magnetic smile. He was endowed with the savoir-faire to engage in diverse subjects, and he won the hearts of many through the three pillars of humility, sharp intellect, and emotional intelligence.

Attributes that were cemented to his glowing persona. Distinctive qualities that no one could ever purloin from him!

I would put my head on the block and dare you to chop it by asserting, had Reginald taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, he would probably have emerged a clear INFJ; the unique Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Judgement personality. INFJs are fondly nicknamed counsellors, and if you knew Reginald well, you would agree, that is what he precisely was. He was not an optical illusion. What you saw is what you got! An incredibly affable, charming, perceptive, resourceful, broad-minded deep intellectual thinker and strategic visionary! A man well attuned to the game of life and its abiding rules. Never a docile blind follower, but most certainly a proactive outside-the-box leader.

Not many people can be described with such glowing terms. This is the exclusive domain of INFJs, a rare breed of superlative beings who form no more than three percent of the world’s population.

Barely four and half decades into his life, one would have thought Reginald had at least a good quarter of a century to live. He was a short plump man. Owing to his physical stature, you would assume that like many of his height, he would have along the way fallen victim to the short-man syndrome. An injudicious behavioural phenomenon where Lilliputian individuals compensate for whatever they lack in stature with a self-assertive persona that borders on pretentiousness and unprovoked truculence. You would probably relate if you’re well acquainted with short-fused diminutive characters.

No, that wasn’t our Reginald! He was emotionally astute, and he always dignified others by his choice of words. Ever keen to draw out even the most reticent of characters.

He was an amazing team player who fully appreciated that a team performed at its optimal level when all members felt comfortable and valued. Reginald was never one to selfishly hoard knowledge. He liberally shared valuable tips with his colleagues and would often encourage them to develop themselves. Unprompted, he often took the initiative to research on scholarships offered by reputable organisations and would unstintingly share the information. In many respects, Reginald’s life course was an intriguing study in the admirable virtues of infinite will-power, humility, generosity, and wisdom.

Reginald lived a mere five-minute walking distance from my diggings. Occasionally, I would see him walking past my crib with his wife in pursuit of fitness. Whenever he saw me, he would find a creative way of teasing me into a light-hearted conversation, peppered with pearly seeds of wisdom. The last time I had the pleasure of setting my eyes on him, he promised to show me a house that he and his wife were building in Phakalane. It was around 7pm, and he was donning one of his perfectly fitting trademark suits and a pair of dusty black shoes. He was of course quick to explain the dust. He had passed by the construction site on his way home from work.

While I awaited a call from him confirming our appointment to view the house, I received a text message, not from him, but about him. It was early morning. I was lying in bed. In part, the heart-wrenching message tersely read, “Betsho, go latolwa Reggie ko BITC.” I must fess up, that message played with my emotions. I momentarily froze, stunned into a nerve-wracking silence, gasping for air as if the last wisp of oxygen had been sucked out of my lungs.

When I ultimately regained my composure, I opted to follow the path of least emotional pain; fooling myself into believing that it must be another Reggie. But there was only one Reggie employed at BITC! Forced to come to terms with the deeply shocking news, a sense of disquietude and despair welled within me. Though I know the answers, I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, ‘Why Reggie? Why was this life that was swelling with so much promise prematurely demised?’ Like any young man, Reginald loved life and cherished success.

I allowed my mind to reflect on Reginald, and as I did that, I recalled the time when, for staff development purposes, BEDIA’s management team took psychometric tests along with junior managers reporting to them. Reginald emerged the best performer, way ahead of departmental heads.

Engulfed by a sense of awe for this luminary, my lips curled into a bright smile that lit up my face! Reginald’s life’s trajectory was effortlessly soaring northward, and it seemed as if it would never reach an inflection point. Though half-a-dozen years shy from clinching his quinquagenarian status, this charismatic man exemplified the meaning of writing one’s story well. The big-hearted Reginald will be sorely missed.

Editor's Comment
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