When hundreds landed in the small village of Pitsane in the Borolong area on Saturday morning, it was not for a big cattle show the area is known for, but for a final bid to their daughter, Kopano Ntombenhle Degratia Rammekwa.
For the few media workers there, a majority of whom were from across the border in South Africa, it was a sad but real moment to see Kopsie off. A friend and colleague had succumbed to a long sickness, which culminated in two massive strokes in the past two years. That last mile was too painful to witness. Sadly many former colleagues and friends failed to find time to be the comfort of the loving and ever-present soul that Kopsie was.
When a friend Lesang Maswabi and I arrived at the Rammekwa homestead on Saturday, the first thing Kopsie’s only child, Zandile said was “Mama was always talking of you two, that you are coming for another visit”. I became emotional, remembering three months or so ago when we went to check on her, we promised a return trip with a platter of seafood Kopsie wanted. We never did, but we kept in touch telephonically, which really is not the same when all a friend unable to take a trip, let alone stand on her own two feet, is all the company of friends and family.
It became too much for me, when Zandile’s husband, Game Bantsi said, “Oh I’m so sorry about your friend, and she talked about you two”. Thinking to these words and finding only three of us, former colleagues at Kopsie’s funeral, Dr Isaiah Banda being the other, I could only deduce that being away from home for too long, meant she had been removed from newsroom memories. It is only fair therefore, to assume that it is worse for the ‘young’ newsrooms.
Kopsie, as Kopano was affectionately known, was one of the pioneers of the Botswana private media. After a short stint as a cabin attendant with Air Botswana in the late 1980s, the writing bug hit, and she joined the newly established, The Botswana Guardian, and later The Gazette. Always in the company and holding her own against the great scribes of the time including those who have passed on, Rampholo ‘Chamza’ Molefhe (who incidentally Kopano shocked the traditional Botswana when she was his ‘best man’ at his wedding), Sekgopi Tshite, Nicholas ‘Carly’ Sebolao, Lentswe Kgaswe, Masupu Rakabane and living legends as Kgosinkwe Moesi, Ernest Moloi amongst others, Kopsie was one of the few female journalists of the time.If I am not mistaken, then around 1990, it was only Kopano and Grace Mosinyi,Doreen Kgakole and Botho Kgwengwenyane, in the private media. In 1992, she relocated to South Africa, controversially joining BOP TV, in the then Mmabatho, as a news writer.
It was there that a lot of us, young journalists would spend weekends at her duplex, behind the then popular hand-out for Batswana, Mega City, and frequented glitz and glamour party scene, and gala award dinners. Kopsie - although never one to shy away from sharing her thoughts on any subject matter - was shy and quiet in her sober moments, but enjoyed company. In a crowd, without a word, the tall, slim figure
On the final night in Gaborone, during a state banquet at the then Gaborone Sun (now Avani), which as usual the media was kept outside of, we were informed that for Mandela’s visit to Serowe the following day, we would be picked in a BX minibus at 5am.
To make it back to Gaborone in time to board the flight back to Johannesburg, we had to leave the Serowe event three hours before the presidential team. We thought that was ridiculous as it meant we would miss the highlight of the visit, a wreath laying ceremony at the royal cemetery. Kopsie said, “Pam come, let’s talk to Ian”.
Kopano was talking about Ian Khama the commander of the Botswana Defence Force. She got the protocol people to call her old friend, Isaac Kgosi, whom after we shared our frustrations, called out the commander.
To cut the long story short, at midnight, the message came through that instead of 5am, we should board the minibus at 6am, and head to the airport where a military aircraft would be waiting for us. Suffice to say, the aircraft was a standing-only military airbus, and to stabilise the stand, one had hold on to the ropes.
And because the instruction to release the aircraft came late into the night, we discovered later that it had some technical challenges that could have led to our demise. But we survived, and so managed to do our work and return to Johannesburg later.
Now she is gone. And all we can say is fare thee well friend. Your race has been run. Your job, which you came for when you arrived on this earth 53 years ago, is concluded.