On the 16th July 2014 at 1125am, whilst driving from my office to Broadhurst Industrial for a meeting, I received a text message saying Advocate Marumo was late. Too shocked to continue driving, I stopped to compose myself. My immediate reaction afterwards was to drive to his house in Phakalane. I found an empty house. Just as I was beginning to doubt the text, the Law Society of Botswana sent an email announcing the worst possible news that indeed Marumo was late. My day was over. His demise brought to a close a distinguished career which spanned three decades. Marumo led an exemplary life.
As I reflect upon the life of Moatlhodi Marumo, I recall a close relationship and mentorship that developed between us. This mentorship developed from my having worked for him upon my graduation from law school in 1999. On the 1st June 1999, I joined the firm Monthe Marumo & Co as an intern. The partners of the firm then were Moatlhodi Marumo and Kgalalelo Monthe. I later learnt they were cousins. Of the two cousins, Marumo was the elegant dresser and the cousin, no disrespect to him. Judge Key Dingake was also regular at the firm and boy could the three speak English! It was a marvel watching Marumo, Monthe and Key interact. To this today, I cannot tell who was more eloquent. There was an element of informality about the place. It was a place of fond memories. The firm was another university and Marumo was the Vice Chancellor. I also met the Marumo and Monthe’s wives at the firm; two unassuming women. One could easily see the closeness between the partners and their better halves. I learnt that they had been college sweet hearts.
I naturally noticed a few things during my stay at Monthe Marumo & Co. Marumo loved sweets, cakes and all the finer things in life. He would take me out to Spur at Kagiso Mall for fish and other exotic dishes. The other partner, Monthe, would on those rare occasions when happy, take me to YWCA for lunch. I hold no grudge against the partner.
Marumo together with his partner taught me the law in its very practicable manner. Earlier on, in my practise, he advised me to study for an MBA, a qualification he had. I asked him why and his answer was that, it would help me understand business in general and would teach me to see the law in a much broader scope. He said an MBA was a good degree to have. He was correct. Marumo was a teacher. He was a very able and persuasive lawyer who became an even better judge. I was one of the few whom he asked for a reference when he left the bench for private practice. In my letter of reference, I aptly used the phrase ‘legal eagle’ in reference to him. He was and remains in my book, one of the finest judges to have come out of this country. Even as a judge, he was unassuming, personable, friendly and sociable outside of the court room. He was a family man who loved his wife and children. Our law reports are littered with his precedent setting judgments. He was more than just a constitutional judge and lawyer.
How do you pay tribute to a person such as Judge Marumo? He was a jurist, scholar, humanitarian and a person whom I loved as a friend and mentor. I will miss my friend. I will miss the lawyer who blazed a trial through the legal system. I will miss the judge who championed justice and equality. I will miss my mentor.
*Kebonang is a practising lawyer and Managing partner at Sadique Kebonang Attorneys.