SEROWE: The funeral of former vice president, Mompati Merafhe was not your usual somber affair, but a gathering full of laughter, as mourners joyfully reminisced on past encounters with â€˜The Generalâ€™ on Saturday.
Former cabinet minister and senior government official Olebile Gaborone left the audience in stitches when he described how the founding commander of the Botswana Defence Force once jokingly frightened one of his herdsmen at his cattlepost in Mmamabula.
“Just out of the blues Merafhe threatened to beat one of my herdsmen beyond recognition, to a point that hospital officials will shun assisting him. When I arrived at the cattlepost my terrified herdsman who did not know what he has done narrated the story to me. “He initially thought that Merafhe was serious. I had to assure him that Merafhe was joking because apart from old age the General would not hurt a fly. That was his way of doing things as he joked over everything,” said Gaborone, who was Merafhe’s neighbour at the cattlepost.
Merafhe’s longtime friend Julius Mazwiduma also had a fair share of his memorable funny moments with him. He narrated an incident that happened some years ago in the early days in the army in which Merafhe helped abate a strike at BCL mine. It was the manner in which Mazwiduma narrated his experience that left mourners in stitches.
He said the strikers were whipping their white bosses at the mine with Mophane sticks, which was unheard of at the time.
“The strike was going to affect operations at the mine for a longer period and everyone including the then vice president Festus Mogae was clueless about what to do to stop the strike. Realising that the diplomatic processes were taking forever, the late pleaded that Mogae be ushered into an office to rest in the interim. Merafhe then issued a command that soldiers should shoot at the miners but no one should get injured. He warned them sternly that should they hurt the miners, they would be jailed. It was then that Merafhe issued a command for fire!
He added, “When soldiers and the police began shooting above the heads of the miners, all of them (miners) disappeared into thin air. Some of them landed in Mmadinare, Bobonong, Serule, Tonota and surrounding areas running like hell. That was Merafhe for you, he was a fast thinker and would do everything to get the job done quickly,” said Mazwiduma to the laughter of the mourners.
Another speaker who amused the audience was Merafhe’s eldest son Odirile when he stood to give a statement on behalf of the family.
When he started his eulogy Odirile showed greater bravery before he lost composure as he thanked his mother for taking care of his late father during tough times and sobbed in front of the multitudes.
He would some seconds later regain composure and begin pumping jokes after jokes that left the audience in stitches. The well-composed Odirile jokingly told President Ian Khama who in appreciation laughed, that he is ready to serve the government or the BDP in whatever capacity and that he should be considered when appointments are made. This last part however left many mumblings as some people wondered whether the young Merafhe was campaigning at his father’s funeral.