As young boys playing in the streets of both Gaborone and Moshupa, it never dawned on Judge Mookodi, President Mokgweetsi Masisi's friend of many years that they were raising a future president.
Mookodi knows that in performing arts, Masisi has found his passion as a performer and as something closest to his heart, he might help the arts in the country to grow by all means possible. The duo met in 1968 and proceeded to share the same school at Thornhill Primary School in Gaborone where they spent seven years together before they proceeded to another English-medium school, Maruapula where they spent five more years together.
“Actually, we grew up together in a group of other students including now attorney Itumeleng Segopolo, quantity surveyor Tshepo Letsunyane, Reggie Molomo, Dr Godisang Mookodi now at the University of Botswana (UB), Mmakotswana Moilwa and Timothy Hermans amongst others,” reminisces Mookodi, whose father was renowned broadcaster, the late Rebaone Mookodi. This is part of the class of 1968 at Thornhill.
Mookodi’s recollection of Masisi’s character as a young man is of simply normal childhood albeit naughty like the rest of the children as they grew up. They played football, cricket and they were in the school choir with other boys and girls. Maruapula is one of the schools in the country that pioneered arts in school and Mookodi, Masisi, Isang Tshoagong and John Motlhala amongst others, were in a class that started art as a subject. A teacher from Germany, Petra Rohr-Rouendal made it all happen in the art class and Mookodi reminisces vividly that the young Masisi was very artistic. With art, he was home and dry, especially performing arts.
The young Masisi’s artistry played loudly when he took part in a play from a book authored by one Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country and Masisi was already at the University of Botswana then. He played the role of Reverend Msimangu. Mookodi also remembers another rendition, Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat, a Biblical story of Joseph, a musical directed by Stewart White, where Masisi performed with aplomb.
He quickly remembers a youthful group of students who played lawn tennis at the Notwane courts coached by the late Euphemia Tlhapane and Masisi was quite good and gifted in the group. Masisi loved tennis so much that one day he invited Mookodi to go and play at
On a family basis, Mookodi and Masisi are both from Moshupa and the parents had cattleposts around Kome where today sits Jwaneng. They regularly visited the cattleposts as parents encouraged their sons to learn the art of herding livestock. “Even today, keeping of cattle and small stock is something that is very close to his heart and he buys and sells.”
He says Masisi’s love for cattle and small stock started off with their fathers inviting them to follow them to the cattleposts.
Mookodi finds his President friend enterprising and creative and dismisses the notion that he (Masisi) is shy to say and do what he wants.
“He is able to think outside the box. He is somebody who is forthright about things that are closer to his heart,” he says.
Mookodi recalls Masisi sharing with him the story of his primary elections in 2009 where he beat his more established opponent, Maitlhoko Mooka via only four votes. To Mookodi, this shows how strong-willed he was. A lot of people doubted Masisi and he openly took his chances and won. In all the years, Mookodi found his friend humble and one who chooses to keep his cards closer to his chest. “Most importantly, he executed his tasks very well and caught the eye of former president Ian Khama.
He never said it; that his eyes were set on the presidency, but at the right time he took his chances and there he is.” Mookodi feels that with a high appetite for performing arts, Masisi will probably do something for the benefit and growth of the arts in the country. He finds his friend to be synonymous with certain values, which became apparent as he grew up: “Honesty is consistent with what he does, quite frank and has a bias for action”.
In conclusion, Mookodi finds Masisi to be the right man for the job given his character, as he is frugal with costs and has thrift tendencies.