Hundreds of mourners thronged the National Stadium in Gaborone for an impassioned memorial for the Vice President, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe yesterday afternoon.
The 77 year-old Merafhe passed away last Wednesday after a prolonged illness.
During the memorial service, Batswana from across the political divide thronged stands and tents at the stadium where various speakers fondly remembered the founding commander of the Botswana Defence Force, who served the country in many capacities for over five decades.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general, Mpho Balopi described Merafhe as a giant, a disciplinarian and a servant.
“Lt Gen Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe was a giant, born disciplinarian with an uncompromising sense of self, of this there is no doubt. Nor can we doubt the legacy of his preference, his penchant really, for order and good service.
“A very handsome man who most of us, me included, who love art, found his features to be easy with the pencil. Many of us admired him and wanted to emulate his eloquence and his use of the ‘Queens language,” Balopi said.
He said many times Merafhe would diffuse an otherwise tense situation through the theatrical use of English wording. Revealing that Merafhe was not a man afraid of beginnings, Balopi said the late statesman was at the forefront of many national services that many take for granted today.
“He was a man who, not only loved but knew his country, having travelled its width and breadth as an officer of the law,” Balopi said.
“He walked this country’s roads when they was little more than dust and dreams, before we even had the capital in which you and I now stand.” He said Merafhe was fond of saying “we all have a dog in the fight,” by which he meant that instead of pointing accusatory fingers, Batswana should collectively pull together to achieve common goals.
Presidential Affairs and Public Administration minister, Eric Molale, said Merafhe exemplified commitment to work and had a tremendous ability to listen.
“He was a born leader. Self-taught. He consistently showed dedication to national service coupled with development and progress.
“It will be remembered that as the Minister of Foreign Affairs he was given one international assignment after another and indeed rose to the occasion to show the stuff he was made of,” Molale said.
For his part, former President, Sir Ketumile Masire said Merafhe was a hard worker both in government and in the ruling BDP.
“He was not afraid to differ with you without hesitating when he did not believe in something. I hope some people could learn from him because he lived his life to the fullest,” Masire said.
Meanwhile former Botswana Police Commissioner, Simon Hirschfeld said the Botswana Police Service’s growth was due to Merafhe’s contribution.
“When he was the deputy commissioner, Merafhe’s aim was to fight crime especially issues of house breakings. He felt that people should not be terrorised by thieves in their homes and this is something police are trying to maintain at all times,” Hirschfeld said.
Meanwhile, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president, Duma Boko paid a courtesy call on the Merafhe’s family yesterday.
“I felt it was important to visit Mma Reobonye (Mrs Merafhe) and pay tribute to the contribution that she made in the successful career of Rre Merafhe,” Boko said later.
“If it wasn’t for her input, we would not have benefited so much from Rre Merafhe. “Accolades have been thrown at Rre Merafhe, leaving out the pillar behind his strength.
“It was Mma Reobonye who stood by and cared for Rra Reobonye during his illness until his death, when he was less useful to us. This woman deserves our praises.”