Merafhe laid to rest

Family members saying their last goodbyes. PIC KEOAGILE BONANG
Family members saying their last goodbyes. PIC KEOAGILE BONANG

SEROWE: Thousands of mourners attended the burial of the country’s former vice president Lt General Mompati Merafhe that was at his home village of Serowe at Botalaote ward on Saturday.

The former VP lost his battle to an undisclosed cancer two weeks ago in Gaborone. Merafhe had been in and out of the hospital over the last four years after he was first admitted at Milpark hospital in South Africa at the beginning of 2011 where he underwent surgery.

There were little emotional scenes at the funeral as thousands of people among them politicians, leading government official and foreign dignitaries paid their last respects to the fallen hero. Only grandchildren and Merafhe’s son Odirile showed a bit of emotion and broke into tears during funeral proceedings.

Apart from little emotion mourners reminisced on some notable encounters of the general’s well-lived life. President Ian Khama, Former South Africa VP Kgalema Motlhante and Zimbabwe VP Phelekeza Mphoko were among those who attended. Speaking at the funeral president Khama told mourners that instead of being sad they should take time to celebrate Merafhe’s life.

“ The General (Merafhe) I know would have wished for that.”

Khama said that Merafhe had a distinguished career that spanned from police, military, political and diplomatic fields, through his sterling performance and value for hard-work. He added that this evidenced by the fact that all sitting presidents worked with him.

“He was indeed a great statesman of our times, a citizen of the world and a true patriot whose conviction and motivation was national service for the development of his country. He served this Republic diligently as a public servant for a period of slightly over half a century, 52 years,” Khama said.

He added that the late Merafhe was a good hearted and selfless individual who was always willing and ready to assist others he worked with. According to Khama. Merafhe was also very spirited, humorous, meticulous and most importantly he pursued a principled journey, according to Khama.

“ It was the same attributes that saw him rise from humble beginnings to the position of Vice President of Botswana. General Merafhe has also been recognised internationally on many occasions, putting Botswana in a good light.

“It is not surprising that even the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) identified him as a unique talent to add value to the leadership of the Party” he said.

The president added that Merafhe became his right hand man in government the due to the characteristic diligence with which he set about assisting him, along with the rest of his Cabinet colleagues, to deliver their collective agenda of taking Botswana to the next stage of its development. In a lengthy address Khama further noted that Merafhe has mentored him from their early days in the army when he was his deputy (Merafhe’s deputy).

“ The deepest tribute I can give him is the humble knowledge that I would have been a lesser person in the absence of the loyalty and support I received from him and from the example over the past four decades of having the privilege of working with him in the BDF, in Government and also very much so in the BDP.

Ponatshego Kedikilwe who is the BDP chairman and former VP said that Merafhe improved inner party democracy and improved interactions within the BDP because of his charismatic leadership qualities and intelligence. “ It is also through his various leadership qualities that he served under various committees within the party structures,”  Merafhe was dropped as additional member of the ruling party late last year due to ill health.

“ He was also eloquent speaker who also liked to amuse people with his brilliant English”.

Merafhe’s son Oridile Merafhe said that in his father the family has lost a rock foundation of its existence.

“We also thank the government and Batswana for their support as well as prayers when our father was ill,”

Odirile became very emotional and shed tears when he spoke about his mother who she described as a ‘ superwoman’.

She said before taking care of their ill father she had to endure another four years caring for a family member who was ill.

The General as Merafhe was lovingly known is survived her widow five children and10 grandchildren.

Merafhe began his career in the government in the 1960’s as a police constable. He rose through the ranks until he became Commissioner of Police. He then to form the BDF where became a commander. He has also held various cabinet positions until he became VP in 2008. He was dropped as the country’s VP in 2012 due to ill health. He is also a former Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East.

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