FRANCISTOWN: At the age of 57 years, just five years shy of the statutory retirement age, Tapudzani Pester Gabolekwe has packed his stuff and retraced his steps back to the village of Gweta, where he originates.
In the midst of the coronavirus that is ravaging humankind, Gabolekwe, former deputy commissioner of police (support services) surrendered his service uniform on April 1, 2020 as a top cop. He was a career police officer who enrolled as a police constable in 1980 and rose steadily to the top.
He stealthily returned home unnoticed when the villagers were still blinded by the lockdown that has curtailed their movement in this era of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Gabolekwe has been at the helm of the Botswana Police Service as a Deputy Commissioner. Through his hard work, commitment and innovative ideas he was able to transform the Police Service to be one of the best in the world. Gabolekwe is a strong visionary leader who believes in premium results and excellence,” reads an excerpt from Gabolekwe’s resume.
It was in November 1980 when the young Gabolekwe, succumbed to his only uncle Space Mathumo’s pressure to join Botswana Police Service as a constable. He remembers he and his uncle engaging in a long journey to Gaborone that took buses and a train to fulfill.
Mathumo was a police officer based at Selebi-Phikwe then, but he ensured that his nephew who hailed from the rural village of Gweta arrived at Gaborone safely before he (Mathumo) took his way to Selebi-Phikwe.
Little did Mathumo know that his contribution to his nephew’s career life would raise a star whose only limitations would be the sky.
Influenced by his uncle to join the police service, Gabolekwe vowed never to disappoint his mother’s only brother but rather to serve the public to the best of his abilities.
He served for about six years in Palapye in his first posting, before he was transferred to Gaborone.
Gabolekwe spent the last 35 years of his career soaring up the ladder in Gaborone.
He started his family life the same year he started his career in Palapye where he happened to meet his wife, Eva Gabolekwe who hails from Oodi village near Gaborone. They are blessed with four children: Two boys and two girls.
“I was so lucky to have met Eva just upon arrival in Palapye when she was a student and now 38 years later, we are still happily together in marriage,” reminisces Gabolekwe, who had just tasted freedom away from parental authority.
In the years of yore, Gabolekwe stresses that it was not easy to observe career choices, but the focus to many rural families was for one to get a job to fend for oneself and family members.
In appreciation of the 40 years he spent actively and continuously in police service, Gabolekwe was able to raise three of his siblings from his days as a constable to date when he quit as the deputy commissioner.
He says, his siblings have high rewarding careers now after growing under his wing from a tender age to post their tertiary education.
“The police service has made me who I am and the career has changed me in many respects,” declares Gabolekwe whose career dream has become real.
Asked if he could have been pushed out of the police service, Gabolekwe laughed
“During my tenure, I was a high performing officer whose record speaks for itself. Being pushed out of the office is very remote and no circumstances could have precipitated it at all,” he shrugged off suggestions for being pushed out.
Gabolekwe has made a decision to return home to venture into his first love, which is farming. He rears cattle and small stock around Gweta. He is also into horticulture.
“I am willing to even mentor those who want to venture into cattle and small stock rearing including horticulture,” he says. The mentoring is done for free.
To him, he is back home to develop his village and sow seeds of empowerment to the youth brigade.
The former police chief is adamant that farming will always reward those who pay special attention to it.
He did not want to remain in the service until the statutory retirement age of 62 years, as he fears that may not give him sufficient time to look after his wealth at his farm that he has accumulated over the years.
He did not just start farming yesterday, as for the better part of his police career, he has been spending his good time in Gweta whenever he gets time to reach his home village.
“I have no regrets about quitting the police service as I have long prepared myself for this exit,” Gabolekwe speaks with confidence and stresses that even his record speaks for itself in the service.
Gabolekwe has been a contributor to the village of Gweta in many ways. He has helped in sourcing chairs to a local junior secondary school where such assistance was direly needed. He has been a major player socially and in his village development and he has promised to continue helping where he can afford.
He has served as the director of air support, director of development, finance and procurement before he rose to the position of deputy commissioner.
His duties as the deputy police commissioner (support services) entailed the following:
- Acted on several occasions for and on behalf of the Commisioner in his absence
- Advised and assisted the Commisioner in the formulation of policies, plans and programmes
- Meet regularly with the commisioner to assist review the organisation, operations and manpower requirements
- Overseeing and providing operational support to all Police departments and divisions to operate as one Unit
- Sitting at various international police organisations that is, International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO)
- Acted as a chief facilitator and or link between the organisation and all government ministries and departments
- Worked closely with the National Strategy Office, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Vision 2036, Nation
He has also received medals for long service and good conduct, medal for jubilee service, Distinguished Service Order and another medal for meritorious service.
There was no doubt during the interview that Gabolekwe was so much in love with the Botswana police, but he had to pursue competing interest in farming.