This past week a dark cloud descended on the academic corridors of University Of Botswana (UB) and academic community in general when one of the intellectual giants in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies passed on.
I received the news of passing with shock and disbelief that this giant, who was not well for sometime was no more. My interaction with Professor Batlhalefi Tsie started in 2010 when I went for further studies at University of Botswana (UB).
This interaction marked the start of a long academic relationship between myself and the Professor as he went on to offer a series of academic courses both at undergraduate and graduate level. Courses on Democratisation : Theories and Practice, Politics of Poverty in Southern Africa, Theories of International Relations, State, Politics and Development are amongst those that Prof Tsie taught me at UB.
He was a veteran academic who served the university in many capacities. He served as a Dean of Faculty of Social Science at UB from 2003 to 2009. He was also Head of Department of Political and Administrative Studies from 1993 to 1998. Prof Tsie has a PHD from University of Leeds in England.
He had a wide variety of research interests ranging from Globalisation and Regional integration in Southern Africa, the State and Development in the SADC region, Civil Society and Developmental Democracy in Southern Africa, International Political Economy to Democratic Governance in Southern Africa. Prof Tsie authored many peer reviewed academic articles, Conference papers and contributed numerous book chapters which include but not limited to the following: The role, Functions and performance of Independent Electoral Commission (2003), Organisation and Management theories: An Africa Focus, Private Higher Education and Public Policy in Africa: Contrasting case of Nigeria and Botswana.As a thoroughbred academic and someone who possessed mastery of eloquence, Prof Tsie’s lessons were invariably not embellished with elegantly constructed rhetorical flourish or ornamentation, but were richly imbued with deep intellectual thought, solid logic and profound wisdom.
He was a man whose stature as an academic grew tremendously to acquire a more polished luminous form during his period at UB. It is thus not accidental that he was adored and revered by some of us whom he taught and shared academic wisdom.His razor sharp intellect, political perspicacity and capacity for huge theoretical analysis placed him head and shoulders above his peers. For many years that Prof Tsie taught me, I have never seen him come to class with any reference notes.
He would just come to class empty-handed and delivered content with ease. He possessed a unique way of explaining political science concepts in a manner that made them to be easily grasped and understood by his students.There was something about Professor Tsie the intellectual that is inexpressingly finer than what he wrote.
People like myself who had many on occasions come within a close radius of his life could not help but feel deeply and tremendously enriched by his pungent intellectual presence in the process. He was a keen educationist who really understood the value and importance of education in the development of the society.
What really set him apart was his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and maintained a lifelong commitment to continual learning and self-education.
He was an assiduous reader who covered almost daily with thinkers across ages and continents. Socrates, Hegel, Lenin, Spinoza, Karl Marx were some of the thinkers from whom he regularly sought counsel, inspiration and sheer delight.Prof Tsie despised intellectual mediocrity with a passion and could be merciless and trenchant on students who in his view did not pull their weight, especially when it came to research assignments.
He called himself Rio Ferdinand of academics. Mind you, Rio Ferdinand was a rock solid soccer defender to come out of English soil. Prof Tsie made it known to us that he was a defender of academic integrity and sheer intellectualism and when he felt your research paper was not good enough, he would award you lowmarks without hesitation.
He used to tell our class that a university degree is not a food basket that is handed out to people out of sympathy and stressed categorically that it should be earned through nothing but hard work. The high academic standards that he used to set for us made it very difficult for most students to obtain high marks. For me, this was a good lesson as the spirit of hard work was inculcated in me.
Like any other individual, Prof Tsie was not infallible, had faults and imperfections and was on many occasions prone to commit mistakes. However, when weighed on the scale of his academic history, these imperfections pale into insignificance especially when juxtaposed with his colossal intellect and other formidable leadership attributes.
He undoubtedly belongs to a pantheon of the finest and greatest men and women who this country has ever produced.
A full life story of this outstanding intellectual giant has to be written.
It would not only shed considerable light on a larger chapter of UB’s academic history, but serve as an invaluable source of theoretical instruction for both students and fellow academics in Botswana and Southern Africa. He shall forever remain entrenched in our hearts and minds. Rest in peace Professor Tsie.
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