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A tribute to Kebatlamang Morake

Publishing Date : 04 September, 2017

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Just last week I started a series whose purpose is to celebrate our heroes and heroines during their lifetime; not when they have departed this world. There is no doubt that Kebatlamang Morake was going to be part of the series.

Unfortunately, before I could celebrate him as a living hero he, according to the Chairperson of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Communications Committee, Thapelo Pabalinga, departed this world on 29th August 2017 after a long illness. This fallen hero deserves not just an obituary, but a tribute. Though I am unqualified to write a tribute for such a giant of a man I will try my best to steal from the writings of my fellow writers to write such a tribute.      

Born on 21st November 1930 in Tonota village, Morake, from 1939 to 1947, went to Tonota School. He then, after completing standard six, trained as a teacher at Kanye Teacher Training College, completing his studies in 1950. From 1951 to 1952 he studied at Tiger Kloof Institution, Vriburg, South Africa, where he obtained his Junior Certificate (JC). Morake is on record as saying the former Director of Education, Harold Jowitt, who was then based in Mafikeng had been so impressed by his performance that he offered him scholarship to study at Tigerkloof.

He is quoted as saying "I enrolled for the three year Junior Certificate but completed it in two years instead. I schooled with the likes of BaNgwaketse Paramount Chief, Kgosi Seepapitso IV and the first Attorney General, the late Moleleki Mokama, among others." Morake did not, however, spend all his time studying. He knew the value of sports and recreation. In his younger days, he was a celebrated footballer who played for Tafa, Tafic and Gaborone United football clubs. Morake began teaching at Tonota in 1953 and spent eleven years there, rising through the ranks to the position of head teacher, a venerated position at the time. He joined the BDP in 1962 when he was still a teacher. 

In 1965 he went for further studies in England where he read for an advanced teachers’ course at the Institute of Education, Newcastle-on-Tyne, a feat which could only be achieved by truly exceptional students. Though no doubt a teacher at heart, his colleagues so in him a politician and leader. In preparation for a political career he was, after independence, sent by his party, the BDP, for political training courses in Britain, West Germany, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. On his return, he was, in 1965, appointed the first Executive Secretary of the BDP. He was also appointed the Editor of the party newspaper, Therisanyo. From January to March 1967 he was sent to the United States of America (USA) as a guest of the State Department studying Political Administration and Organisation.

Reportedly, during his tenure as BDP Executive Secretary and Editor of the BDP newspaper, Therisanyo, Morake ardently promoted and defended the party’s policies and programmes. It is obviously because of this that he attracted the attention of the then president, the late Sir Seretse Khama who is reported to have held Morake in such high regard that he often delegated him to officiate at events on his behalf. Consequently, after the 1969 general elections, he was nominated and elected as specially elected Member of Parliament (MP) after which he was appointed Assistant Minister responsible for Information and Broadcasting Services in the Office of the President (OP).

In 1970, while in a study tour of Great Britain, he studied Broadcasting Services, augmenting his journalism acumen which had hitherto been hinged mainly on information services. In an interview on 21st July 2005 with Mmegi’s veteran journalist, Ryder Gabathuse, Morake said a major breakthrough in his political career came in 1971 following the appointment of former Mmadinare MP, Amos Dambe, as an ambassador to USA. He contested and won the Mmadinare parliamentary by-election after which he was appointed Assistant Minister in the then Ministry of Local Government and Lands, working under the late Englishman Kgabo. The following year, he became a full cabinet minister in the same ministry.

In 1974 Morake won parliamentary elections after which he was appointed Minister of Education, a ministry he would serve for fifteen years, becoming the longest serving Minister of Education in Botswana. According to Gabathuse, he was proud that the record is yet to be broken. The fifteen years that Morake spent as Minister of Education was perhaps the most productive in the development of Botswana’s education system. It was during this time that Community Junior Secondary Schools were establishment. If there is anyone who deserved an honorary Doctorate it is Morake.

According to Gabathuse, Morake has stated that these schools came as a result of the recommendation of the first education commission which he says he ensured was implemented. Among his other achievements were the expansion of the secondary school education; and the introduction of pension for teachers. During his days in Parliament, he became popular for using the Kalanga analogy of ‘shololaviya’, which directly translates to mean one who spends the whole day skinning an animal, to make the point that development is not an event, but a process and that a solution to a problem creates other problems elsewhere.

Morake has also served this country as Minister of Health from 1989 to 1991 and Minister of Agriculture from 1991 to 1994. Unfortunately, in 1994, he lost the Selebi-Phikwe constituency. In the same year his wife died. However, as a true disciple of the BDP, Morake has, despite losing the elections, always remained a committed BDP member. He did not, like some of his fellow democrats, defect from the BDP, not even in 2010 when the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) splintered from the BDP.

Morake has, to the best of my knowledge, lived a life of virtue in both his public and personal life. I am not aware of any scandal he was involved in. He may have lived his final days with neither gold nor silver, but he departs this world a virtuous men.
The question is: what did we, as Batswana, do to appreciate this gift of a life that God had blessed us with? Can we not have used a tenth of what we have spent in his funeral preparations to make his life a little better, especially during his final days?

We have such other gifts as Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe, Michael Dingake, David Magang, Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Gilson Saleshando, Dr. Margret Nasha, Ntombi Setshwaelo, Gladys Kokorwe, Professor Lydia Nyathi-Saleshando, Daniel Kwelagobe, Ephraim Lepetu Setshwaelo to mention but just a few. Are we going to wait until their demise before we can celebrate them? Are we going to let them depart uncelebrated like Sir Ketumile Masire, Professor Thomas Tlou, Dr. Kenneth Koma, Paul Rantao, Mareledi Giddie, Maitshwarelo Dabutha, Klaas Motshidisi, Kgosi Linchwe II, Kgosi Seepapitso IV, Chapson Jabavu Butale, Clara Olsen, Eitlhopha Mosinyi to mention but a few?



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