Media freedom fighter is mourned

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 12 November 2014   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho

Radio Botswana listeners or better, the nation at large, would remember him for his trade mark statement “Nkwe nkgoga ke go goge le wena o tle o utwe botlhoko jwa go gogiwa” during his Masaasele (A Radio Botswana morning programme) days. Of late with the advent of technology, he always marveled his legion of followers on the social network Facebook with the greeting “Dumelang lona Chaba e e sa tsenyeng ope dingalo ebile le sa batle go tsenya ope dingalo” every day whenever he made a post on his facebook page.

In essence this is how Laona Segaetsho, the departed media personality who met his death at Lake Ngami near Sehithwa village, interacted and showered everybody with love regardless of whether they knew each other or not. 

When news of his passing spread on Monday morning, everybody who spoke of this fallen ‘gentle giant’ almost had similar sentiments. They described him as a loving, humble, ever eager to assist, mentor, hard-worker, wise counsellor and an inspiration to many especially within the media industry.

His contribution to the media industry, not only in Botswana but even beyond the borders is described by those who worked with him as immeasurable. At the time of his departure, Laona chaired the Southern African Media Development Fund (SAMDEF), the financial wing of Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). A representative from SAMDEF when speaking at Segaetsho’s memorial service in Gaborone on Thursday described the contribution the late media high-flyer made at SAMDEF as enormous. He said Segaetsho sat in SAMDEF’s finance committee in 2010 as its chairperson but would in less than two years be appointed the organisation’s board chairperson, owing to his excellence and impeccable execution of his duties. He also described the late Segaetsho as a vibrant person who was always ready to assist, and had a strong belief in Media freedom. This, he said, lead to him being a representative of media practitioners. “He always preached democracy, freedom of expression and human rights. He transformed many lives in the region,” he said.

Locally Laona chaired the MISA Botswana Board for a while and it is during this time that his contribution to the media landscape gained momentum. At the time government was at the height of introducing the Media Practitioners Act, an instrument that Segaetsho and other colleagues in the media viewed as draconian and battled relentlessly against. He joined MISA as a board member in 2004 and then ascended to be the board chair in 2006 and left to venture further in media related endeavours.  The current MISA Botswana National Director Buyani Zongwani described Segaetsho as a media freedom fighter. According to Zongwani, during his tenure at MISA the late Segaetsho assisted in identifying laws that infringed on media freedom and contributed to other media related laws like the BOCRA law. Zongwani said Segaetsho’s love and dedication to the local media industry never stopped as evidenced by the many contributions and assistance extended to the local media by the United States of America Embassy. This, according to Zongwani, was not just an act of kindness from the embassy but it had Segaetsho’s influence and signature imprinted all over it.

Various media personnel, who worked with Segatsho both in the public and private media, also poured their hearts out in describing this fallen hero to many. Though it is norm not to talk bad of the dead culturally, it was apparent that with Segaetsho the speeches and statements made were sincere.

One speaker Sakaeyo Baitshepi, who worked with Segaetsho at Radio Botswana and remained friends with him until the time of his departure, having run out of words borrowed the Latin phrase ‘Ecce Homo’ (translated; Behold the man) to simply round up what the late Segaetsho was.

Segaetsho‘s loss is however not only felt in the media industry, his employers the American Embassy, where he has been working for the past 10 years joined the many in expressing their loss. Speaking at Segaetsho’s memorial service, the U.S Charged’ Affairs, Michael J. Murphy, said the embassy will forever be grateful for Segaetsho’s contribution to the US foreign policy in Botswana, saying everyone should be proud of the contributions that he made through his work to improve the lives of Batswana nation-wide.

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Murphy said though to many outside the US Embassy Segaetsho would be remembered as a journalist and advocate of media freedom, to his colleagues at the embassy he was a mentor, a role model and a friend. He said Segaetsho’s commitment to issues that affect the future of Botswana, from democracy and human rights, to youth empowerment, to conservation and natural resources management was admirable. “We will remember him for his leadership, for his ability to get along with people from all walks of life, for his sharp intellect, and for the big smile and booming laugh,” Murphy said.

His family also shared with other mourners what their son was to them. Their depiction of this towering giant of a man was not different to that of other speakers. His brother described him as an all-rounder, a peace loving person and a unifying figure in the family who used his big smile and sense of humor to bring together the family in any kind of situation.

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The 41-year-old Segaetsho died after the canoe he was in capsized in Lake Ngami last weekend. The other two victims in the incident were a 42-year-old, Mahindi Peti from Shakawe and 43-year-old Geoffrey Makgolo of Gaborone. His lifeless body was retrieved the following day by BDF scuba divers at a location where eyewitnesses say the accident happened.

Segaetsho was in Maun attending the weeklong Maun Arts Festival which was sponsored by the US Embassy. His death comes a few months after he tied the knot with his bride Amuchelani Segaetsho. He leaves behind two sons. He was laid to rest yesterday at Phomolong Centre in Phakalane.



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