As Mmegi commemorates its 40th anniversary in August this year, Mmegi correspondent KAGISO SEKOKONYANE reminisces about his journey with the newspaper
Upon completion of my BA (Humanities) degree at the University of Botswana (UB) in June 1993, I had to look for employment straight away.
I tried my luck in a few government departments to no avail. At the time, government was the main employer of graduates from UB but upon our completion, the situation had changed. Not all of us were absorbed, so we had to fend for ourselves.
One of my former schoolmates, Robert Molebatsi, had been lucky to find a job at the Ministry of Health. Their offices were housed at a building at the Bontleng Mall. He was always on the look out for any possible job openings for me.
One day he told me about a job opportunity at the same department where he worked. I quickly rushed there to drop my application and the following day I was offered a job. You can imagine how excited I was about the new job. I was now like others who had completed at the UB at the same time with me.
The next day I reported for duty and it was a full day. Then the following day, tragedy struck. I was informed that the job I was offered was not there because the position did not exist. I had to immediately go back home and lick my wounds.
A frantic job search had to ensue again. At the time, I was playing for Gaborone Kicks football club and one day the owner of the team, Tiragalo Mponang, told me about a job advertisement at Mmegi where they were looking for a cub reporter. I put in an application and within a few days I was called for an interview. At the time, I did not have an idea what news writing involved. I just wanted a job.
The day of the interview arrived and I reported at the Mmegi offices at Maruapula. It was a panel of three men namely; Methaetsile Leepile, who was the managing editor, Sechele Sechele, the acting editor at the time and the Sam Kampodza, Business Editor.
There I was, in front of the three intimidating men. They took me through a barrage of questions related to the profession and I believe on the day I acquitted myself very well. Within two days, I was called to go collect my appointment letter.
The journey with the newspaper began on September 6, 1993 as a cub reporter. I found great men and women in the newsroom when I started.
There were the likes of Keto Segwai, Mesh Moeti, Pamela Dube, the late Mike Mothibi, Prof Malema, and photographer, the late Charles Simukoko, amongst others. Mpho Maine joined the team later.
Of course, there were other people in various departments.
This cohort hand held me and I will always be grateful for their grooming into the journalist I later became.
At the time, Mmegi shared offices with the renowned drama group, Reetsanang, led by the late Chitukuta (I forget his first name). The pioneer of Mmegi, the late Patrick van Rensburg also had offices in the same complex that housed Mmegi, where he ran his Education with Production programme.
The version of the Mmegi I joined had been launched in 1984 having evolved from Mmegi wa Dikgang, which was based in Serowe then. When I look back to where it all started for me, comparing to what I see today, I see a big transformation. We were crammed into a small newsroom and used to share computers. Vehicles were limited and had to be shared by the different departments, but everything seemed smooth sailing.
The newspaper was printed in black and white and photos were developed in the darkroom within the premises. At the time, the paper was printed in South Africa and there was one hectic deadline on Wednesdays. So, everything had to be done and finished before the border closed so that delivery trucks with the paste up could head to the printers in Pretoria.
It is interesting that a lot of those that I found when I joined left for greener pastures and unfortunately many others have since departed this earth. I could count many of them (May their souls rest in peace).
Over time, the infrastructure and amenities needed to propel the newspaper forward improved. As the company grew, one of the add-ons was the acquisition of a printing press. The paper could now print in-house, moving away from Printing and Publishing Company where the newspaper had been printing after relocating from South Africa. The deadlines became a little easier. Over timel the printing units were increased and it is able to print a variety of jobs and other newspaers outside the stable.
But as the paper grew, a new challenge came. The paper had to be produced daily. It was a challenge, which took time for us to adapt to since we were used to producing one copy per week. But eventually we got the groove and produced daily. But because of financial burden, the owners eventually decided to stop the daily edition and revert to coming out weekly.
Another addition to the Mmegi stable was the introduction of the current The Monitor newspaper, which upon resumption piggy-bagged on Mmegi as it was christened the Mmegi Monitor. The company outgrew the ‘small’ Maruapula complex and the owners bought a bigger office space, a three-story building in the Main Mall, the comapny is currently housed
Somewhere in between I left Mmegi to join the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime. My stay there was short-lived (six months) and I retraced my steps back to Mmegi. I did not ‘feel’ the new job and I decided to ‘go back home’. Luckily, there was still a space available.
On a personal note, I have been through the mill. I started off as a cub reporter and at the time I left the employ of the company, I was the editor of The Monitor newspaper, a job I did for eight years. Prior to being an editor, I had rotated around all the different desks.
At various times, I was elevated from being a cub reporter to being a reporter to senior reporter and eventually being a desk editor on the different beats in the newsroom. I was once the Editor of the Setswana pull out called Dikgang which was later rebranded as Naledi. I was at one point the sports editor before being appointed the editor of The Monitor.
It has been a roller coaster journey for me with this company. I remember when I left in 2014, one of my colleagues, Lesang Maswabi, asked me about the highlight of my stay at Mmegi. My response was curt: “I came in as a boy and I am leaving as a man”. This summed up my stay at the company.