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Masisi: The making of a President

Like any Motswana child, the incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi grew up exposed to the rigours of shuttling between the village and the cattlepost. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE was in Moshupa recently to feel the pulse of the villagers before Masisi ascends to the presidency as the country’s fifth President on April 1 2018

MOSHUPA: The young Masisi grew up exposed to the traditional moraka (cattlepost) life before he shifted to the modern life in Gaborone for his education and later career development. His elder brothers and parents played their roles in raising him, oblivious that they were raising the future President of the republic. Even Mokgweetsi never imagined himself occupying the highest office in the land as the state President.

The story told by the incoming President’s elder brother, Peter Ramogotsi Masisi, 78 presents his 55 year-old younger brother, as a man who has undergone the traditional training of looking after cattle and small stock. In fact, cattle, goats and sheep have always been very close to Mokgweetsi’s heart although he may not claim to be your reputable farmer.

 He was raised like any other Motswana child. From a tender age, he distinguished himself from his peers as a disciplined young man who managed his affairs very well. He did not just impress his parents at the Ga-Sau ward in Moshupa village only, but many elders watched him as an intelligent and responsible young man.

He was not even confused by the fact that he schooled about 56km away from the hills of Moshupa in the capital city Gaborone, where his parents also raised him. His father Edison Masisi was a long serving Member of Parliament (MP) of Moshupa and former cabinet minister.

Some of the good traits that distinguished the young Masisi from his peers included punctuality or rather timeliness in whatever he ventured into and he was well organised.

In his early years, he literally shuttled between Moshupa village and the parents’ cattlepost at Kome where today sits the modern Jwaneng mine.

“He grew up very particular and could not waste his time no matter what,” reminisces Ramogotsi. In particular, Mokgweetsi caught the eyes of his seniors by his tendency to do things distinctively and timeously from his peers.

Like any Motswana child particularly a son, Mokgweetsi exhibited strong love for cattle and small stock. His brothers, who assisted the parents in raising him, gave him their love.

“He had friends. But, he could not stay away from the house here in Moshupa for a long time and his playmates all knew this side of him.”

As an avid reader from a tender age, Mokgweetsi gobbled almost everything to enhance his knowledge of the world around him. His love for books was spectacular.

During his tenure as a History and English teacher at Mmanaana Junior Secondary School in Moshupa he exercised his willingness to assist learners with special education needs.

He was always willing to go an extra mile to provide extra lessons committing the little time that he had to himself. This to Ramogotsi was a sign that his brother was an educationist at heart, as he did not charge them for the extra lessons.

“He wanted to make sure that his students understood and passed the examinations.”

In his early life as a student at both private schools, Thornhill and Maruapula, Mokgweetsi was a reputable lawn tennis player to the extent that he ended up representing the country in Lesotho, Zambia and others in international tournaments.

“As for football, he just watched and never really played impressively,” says Ramogotsi against information that his brother also played soccer. He is however, not certain if Masisi continued with lawn tennis during his days at the University of Botswana (UB) as a student.

At the Moshupa kgotla, the village deputy chief Mothusinyana Mochankana is amongst the people who watched the ‘rise and rise’ of Masisi.  His first words were about Masisi’s strength. “He is a person that we have always known as a hard worker from his days as a teacher at Mmanaana Junior Secondary School, including his days as the area MP and state Vice President,” Mochankana says with a chuckle.

He concedes that little did he know that his principal, President Ian Khama had earmarked their MP as the future state President.

When he joined politics, Mochankana says, Masisi’s arrival was akin to a whirlwind.

“He was like God sent to come and put our village on the world map. Look at how he rose through the political ranks, from an assistant minister to a substantive minister at the Office

of the President, Vice President and now waiting for him to be state President,” he gesticulates the rise and rise with his left hand.

His face beams with happiness as he declares that when Masisi was assigned to drive President Khama’s pet projects of poverty eradication and Presidential Housing Appeal, he did so with passion.

Mochankana captures Masisi’s developmental tagline in the vernacular: “Motho a iteke a bo a re heke! (You must put up your very best until you feel it).”

As Khama has proven to be a man who is passionate about eradicating poverty in Botswana, Masisi seems to be having a similar dream.

“You can see that when Masisi was given an assignment by Khama he did as assigned and I would say he performed beyond the President’s expectations,” he says emphasising that Masisi has proven his loyalty to Khama.

One of the things that Mochankana holds high about Masisi is the fact that he had brought developments to Moshupa since he was elected as area MP in 2009. It was during his tenure as MP that the village attained sub district status, majority of the village network of roads were tarred and the village now has streetlights all attributed to Masisi’s efforts.

“If you are coming from Kanye and you are up at the Polokwe hill, Moshupa now looks like Johannesburg with its lighting because of the leadership of Masisi.”

Despite his tight schedule as a Minister of state and later Vice President, Mochankana is satisfied that Masisi always found time to attend such events like weddings and funerals.

He was quick to narrate the events of 1999 when Mpule Kwelagobe, also from Moshupa was crowned Miss Universe also putting the village on the world map.

He was also quick to point out that Moshupa has its own ‘white people’ like Satar Dada, the Steglings and the Norris’ originally from Scotland.  Seventy-year-old Slysken Mogapinyana Nkunyane, is a headman of arbitration in Moshupa based at the main kgotla. A very cheerful man who looks much younger than his age.

“With us, this is a good thing that our village Moshupa has produced the fifth state President. Masisi has done his best to reach the current heights,” he declares shaking his legs that were closely packed together reclining on his traditional chair.

That Masisi is still relatively new in politics after being elected to Parliament for the first time in 2009, Nkunyane finds him to have put up his very best to be where he is today.

“When he was elected the area MP, it became clear from how he conducted his business that he was destined for greater things. We saw a serious leader in him,” he declares.

He attributes Masisi’s rise to the fact that he took all his political assignments seriously.

“If he was not a hard worker, he would not be where he is today. Everything that we see happening to him is the result of his visionary leadership.”

Nominated cuncillor, Ponatshego Tshiping in the Manyana/Moshupa constituency, has simply run out of words to describe Masisi.

She was quick to say that Bakgatla-ba-ga-Mmanaana respect him a lot for the splendid job that he did for them as their MP.

“We are proud that we have elected a politician to Parliament who will on April 1, 2018 become the country’s fifth state President,” she declared amid ululations.

To her, Masisi has done a lot for the constituency, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and individuals all over the country.

“He leaves his constituency with streetlights true to his long promise. We hope that he will lead this country very well as he has proved that he is capable.”

BDP veteran politician Tshiping describes Masisi as a loving person which he demonstrated many times whilst a teacher at Mmanaana Junior Secondary School and later as the MP.

Since good parents Edison and Masego Masisi raised him, Tshiping says the incoming President is a generous giver who can give just to anybody because of his good heart.

His father used to send Masisi on political errands to collect and drop party members at various places of interest. This was happening despite that as a civil servant he was expected to remain apolitical without playing any role in political activity.




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