On Saturday, October 10, 2020 I missed a call from my good friend Ollie Groth at exactly 8:10am.
My phone had been on silent, as I usually have it so in order not to be awoken in the middle of the night whilst enjoying my deep slumber mostly by cantankerous clients running away from police whilst under the influence.
When I saw the missed call from Ollie I immediately returned it because Ollie hardly calls me just to exchange pleasantries, having worked with him for over 10 years as board members of Bana Ba Metsi School, he being the past immediate chairperson of the board.
When Ollie answered on the other side I could feel he was a bit tense, but could not put pen to it. After exchanging greetings with him he broke the sad news of the passing away of one of our board members, Archibald Makgothi, who was simply known to everyone as Archie.
I must say I was in shock, as I had not heard of Archie’s illness given that we had not spoken for some months due to the fact that life had literally come to a halt due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The most interaction we had had as board members of the school was by email. From the brief conversation I had with Ollie, I learned that Archie was asthmatic and had cancer that he succumbed to after a short stay in hospital.
Immediately after we had said our goodbyes with Ollie, I, in my capacity as the chairperson of the school board, wrote a short but brief email to other board members informing them about the demise of our beloved Archie. It is now then that memories of the brief but wonderful time that I’ve known Archie came flooding in.
I must confess that I had not known Archie for a long time having first met him in 2016 when he came to join us as a board member of Bana Ba Metsi School board. He had been good friends with the founder of the school Steve Hapt, the two having worked together way back as teachers all over Botswana and he came in highly recommended by other board members who knew him from his Ministry of Education days where he retired at the position of deputy permanent secretary.
Despite the fact that this is a volunteer position without any financial gain, Archie answered the call to serve with us, which he did with distinction. Archie was a committed board member who would travel the distance between Gaborone and Ngarange to attend board meetings without any complaint, more especially having to drive on that dilapidated road from Sehithwa to Shakawe.
The bad state of the road did not faze him from attending scheduled board meetings at the school that is in the middle of nowhere and his contribution to the board was invaluable.
When Archie joined our board he fit in like a hand in glove and what he loved the
He was like a father to all of us and his wise counsel and cool demeanour was his ace card. He tackled issues head on despite his cool, calm and unassuming character. One could notice that his years as a teacher, headmaster, director and deputy PS in the Ministry of Education had really moulded him into the wise man he was.
The Archie I knew was a humble soul and a perfect gentleman. His command of the queen’s language set him apart and you could tell he was cultured.
During that short time that I got to know Archie, the one thing that I noticed about him was his love for adventure more particularly travelling and camping. Archie was well travelled having trotted the globe, but his beloved travels were around Southern Africa where driving and camping was involved.
Whenever he travelled on these camping trips he would send me photos of places that they were at and he would say he’s motivating me to see the world when I retire.
I believe one of the reasons why he loved travelling around Southern Africa was the fact that he could carry his beloved firewood, especially from a mophane tree. I bet that was the first thing he packed in his car before any camping trip.
Archie would not miss an opportunity to send me pictures of a huge bonfire wherever he was camping. I can speak with authority that the first thing he will ask for when he gets to heaven will be for a set of camping equipment complete with a tent, braai stand and firewood.
The times I spent with Archie and other board members around the campfire at the school, him regaling us with stories of his life most of which involved his experiences on his camping trips, will be greatly missed.
It is indeed true that the good depart this earth early, and equally true that their good deeds will be remembered for eternity. Archie has left an indelible mark in all of those he met and interacted with.
He shall forever be remembered not only for what he achieved, but for who he was, a pretty damn nice guy. Even my daughter who schooled at Westwood International School a couple of years ago where Archie had retired to, paid homage to his wonderful nature when I told her the sad news.
I would like to extend our condolences as a board to his lovely wife Susan Makgothi and his wonderful children.
The great man has made his final bow and all I can say is “Farewell my friend, farewell Archie.”
*Lawrence Lecha is chairperson of Bana ba Metsi and a former chairperson of the Law Society of Botswana