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Farewell & Thank You Lawrence Ookeditse: a Youth Development perspective

Publishing Date : 19 March, 2018

Author :

Gobe Taziba

“I was an imperfect human, we all are, but I did my bit in what is a little step towards the huge task of nation building”. (Lawrence Ookeditse; 2018)

It has been officially announced and confirmed that, Lawrence Ookeditse –former Director at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports & Culture Development, has voluntarily left his high ranking and relatively well paying job. According to him (Ookeditse) he is ‘going to seek his destiny elsewhere’. Wherever the destiny is and whatever it is, I join fellow compatriots in wishing him extremely well. 

Ookeditse’s voluntarily exit from the relatively well-paying senior position after an eventful and progressive 26 months, at the tender age of 34, has shocked many. Some have labeled his voluntary departure as a ‘promising journey sadly cut too short’.  However, those that worked with him during his term as Director long saw it coming. He always told, and reminded, everybody and anybody around him that he was not at the Ministry or Civil Service to stay. He emphasized he was just there to make his little contribution and leave.


Though many perceived his words as sheer rhetoric, Ookeditse being a man of his word, stood by his word and delivered his promise. Announcement of his appointment to the senior position early 2016 was received with mixed reactions. Based on his relatively young age, some felt he was rather too young and will obviously fail in such a senior role. Some felt since it was his first appointment in civil service he was destined to fail dismally, especially at such a senior level of civil service operations. 


Others feared his illustrious academic, civil society and private sector background will be misplaced and put to waist at the ministry in particular and civil service in general. Concurrently the larger youth development fraternity celebrated the news of Ookeditse’s appointment as Director for several reasons. One of the reasons being, for the longest time the youth development fraternity has relentlessly advocated for appointment of capable outstanding young citizens to key decision making portfolios in public and private sectors. 


The fraternity’s advocacy in this regard is informed and based on the fact that young citizens have the necessary skills, energy and determination to transform conventional procedures and practices in these sectors. The fraternity’s advocacy is also centered on the ‘youth budge’ demographic phenomenon, which the fraternity strongly argues should be reflected in the appointment and composition of executive and decision making structures.


Ookeditse’s appointment was also easily accepted and celebrated based on his well know achievements and track record in the country’s socioeconomic development circle; these include but not limited co-founding the landmark Botswana Jobs Summit.  In this regard the youth development fraternity largely celebrated the appointment of our country’s young(est) and most versatile civil service director. Furthermore the fraternity celebrated government for hearing our advocacy regarding recruitment of skilled outstanding young citizens for senior positions in government.


The fraternity also celebrated Ookeditse’s gesture of selflessly answering this rather demanding national call at the expense of all his, well-known and unknown, personal investments and interests. In taking up this civil service call, he also selflessly traded his thriving public commentary and analysis rights, such as column writing and radio show hosting, in the interest of youth development and national service. In my view, and I am sure in the view of many other youth activists, Ookeditse’s appointment was not, by any measure, an appointment in vain. It was a progressive appointment in many ways; the following paragraphs will focus on reasons majority of us strongly and boldly hold this view. 


Though he’s service as director was only 26 months, its narration may seem and sound like he severed for a decade or two. But as Abraham Lincoln put it; "It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts". In his first few months into office Ookeditse was already leading an extra ordinarily energized and innovative youthful team at the ministry to stage the first ever Youth Business Expo. The event became a huge success in terms of motivating youth business innovation and exposure. It was reported to have been successful in all aspects. It also attracted the attention and presence of His Excellency the President and his entire cabinet. The expo is now a huge calendar event for the ministry in particular and youth entrepreneurs at large.


One can only hope in the absence of Ookeditse’s guidance and leadership the remarkable committee will continue to promote the spirit of progressive and competitive youth entrepreneurship through the Youth Business Expo. Similarly, within no time Ookeditse had literally opened his office and all social media platforms to literarily serve our country’s young citizens. All his social media platforms where generously converted to a ministry Notice Board and Suggestion Box. Often than not deliberations on his timelines where predominantly feedback, suggestions and recommendations on matters relating to key youth development programs and initiatives. His office, office 201 at the ministry headquarters, was no different.


I honestly felt sorry for his ever welcoming Secretary, Mma Kaote or Sthando as he affectionately called her; the congestion of young people that flooded his office for assistance and/or guidance was overwhelming. He literally turned his office and position into a bottomless fountain of hope and inspiration for most, if not all, young people. I think because of the fact that he was relatively their age, he dressed like them, he spoke their language, and walked their walk. A lot of young people could relate with him easily and freely articulated their dreams and aspirations. Majority of those that managed to interact with him got the assistance they needed; in addition to the assistance they all left his office much wiser and more inspired.


I have come across some of them and also skimmed through testimonies of many others on social media. I’m yet to see or hear about a Director as accessible, versatile and selfless as Ookeditse was. As if the work and demands of the 0730-1630hrs working hours were not already overwhelming, he continued to selflessly and tirelessly devote his evenings, weekends and holidays to more youth development engagements. He made sure he avails himself for each and every youth development initiative brought to his attention.
 

He graced almost every youth development initiative, near or far, big or small. Social media was constantly awash with footage of him; worshiping with worshipers, cycling with cyclists and walking with hikers, all in the spirit of advancing youth development and empowerment. In light of these facts and a few more I could not capture here due to limitations of space, Ookeditse’s appointment and service were earnestly fruitful and progressive. It has given us a practical experience of how progressive civil service could be, and should be.


At some point when Nelson Mandela was showered with multitudes of ovations towards the last days of his illustrious and victorious battle against white domination, well-wishers referred to him as a Saint. In response Mandela said; ‘I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying’. I am also not trying to portray Ookeditse as Saint, unless you define a Saint in Mandela’s words. Similarly in Ookeditse’s heart moving  farewell message to his former colleagues, he also states and admits;


‘I will be the first to say it, I was an imperfect human, we all are, but I did my bit in what is a little step towards the huge task of nation building’. One of Ookeditse’s favorite statements is; ‘the universe always takes care of its own’. So as he moves on to search for his destiny elsewhere, we are sure the universe will take good care of him, because he is surely one of its own. Lastly in the famous words of, Jacob Zuma, and his accomplice, Malusi ‘Gigabyte’ Gigaba, ‘see you again somewhere’ Lawrence Ookeditse.

* Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (71 890 354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk)

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