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Farewell my Mandela

SHARE   |   Sunday, 10 August 2014   |   By Uyapo Ndadi
Farewell my Mandela

You may not have spent 27 years in prison like Mandela but certainly your life was not a bed of roses. You have lived it, seen it and conquered it. Your life has pushed you to great heights, heights some of us will never reach or come close to. You were not an ordinary man but you lived an ordinary and simple life. You had a big heart, a heart that could accommodate all of us, including your nemesis or adversaries.

My Mandela impacted heavily on my life, he taught me to be selfless. He didn’t have to fight for our democracy, he didn’t have to fight for our liberties, he didn’t have to take the President to court, he didn’t have to fight corruption, but he chose this difficult path for our benefit. He was our voice, not because he was compelled to, but because he knew it was the right thing to do! He could have chosen the path most of us are comfortable traversing, a path of silence or speaking in muted voices. And I call it dying when still alive. He once said to me “le ha ba ka re o gay and HIV positive nnaka, o ba lese hela, wena wa ikitse akere nnaka”. That to me was a message to say people who do things because they stand to benefit from the outcome and not because they are right, are selfish.


A very supportive man he is. He came to my law firm in April and prayed for it. He said “Uyapo I know you will make it. You have nothing to prove.” I told him that I was humbled by his gesture. He was a busy man but he made time, not only for me but for many of you.

To Motswaledi, people were more important than politics. He was at home amongst his people, across the political divide. It beats me how he managed to find time for all of us. We all related with him personally. He had a way of making one feel that he only loves him or her. Sometimes his love will make you think he wants to lopela you. He simply genuinely loved his people. He was no fake. That big smile was real. That loud laughter was real.


He valued principle as opposed to loyalty. He dealt with people at a principle level and not because they are loyal to him or to his party. We know some people believe in loyalty first. For some it matters who said it not what was said.

To demonstrate that he was a man of principle, he nominated me to serve in one international committee on human rights. He did so because he believed I can do the job and not because I am BNF (Botswana National Front) or BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy). I am neither. Just in case you now think I am BCP (Botswana Congress Party) or BDP (Botswana Democratic Party). I am neither still. I could be MELS (Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin). I am one person, who follows principles and not people, but I found myself following this giant because he lived to the fullest, the principles I cherish.


Mr Motswaledi was sensitive and responsive to the environment he lived in. Some leaders are indifferent. I remember when a young girl aspiring to be Miss Botswana last year remarked that homosexuality is a disease. I put up a blog and said that even though she did not win, she is my queen, because unlike Botswana political parties, she has made her position on the issue known publicly. I may not have agreed with her but I admired her bravery and courage. Motswaledi being Motswaledi, sent me a text saying “I am seeing that young lady tomorrow. I have asked her to see me because I don’t think she is homophobic. It is unfortunate that Batswana are bashing her. She probably thought she was saying something popular”. This is the selfless, responsive leader Motswaledi was. I am sure he was going to be the first to give Amantle Montsho a hug.

Gomolemo had no class. As a result he classed no one. He connected with all of us, educated or not, poor or rich, male or female. Talking of females, I know ladies found him attractive, not because he was vertically advantaged, but because he was different, courageous, charming and principled. I am told women don’t admire cowards who have no integrity. 


In May this year, Swaneng Hill School celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Gomolemo worked really hard to put together a good event. He was seen dressed like Julius Malema, as he dresses in Parliament, and working really hard to make sure the event is seamless and the next moment he addressed the multitudes, dressed like me. I had the insurmountable task of speaking after him, because he insisted that I represent the 1993 to 2002 generation. I really had to up my game because he had raised the bar high. After that he congratulated me and said you spoke better than me. I doubt, I think it was the leadership in him talking. The man was eloquent. 

The people of Serowe loved him and adored him. He said to me “Uyapo, I am in a good space these days. I am at home at home, around 2010 – 2012, I was unwelcome in my home village. People thought I was an enemy but today they know who the enemy is.” That is the Sir G I knew. Such a huge loss, but I do take comfort in knowing that he is even bigger upon his death than in his life.

*Ndadi is an alumni of Swaneg Hill School and also runs his law firm, Ndadi Law Firm.

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