Malatsi Malatsi: On call to the last day! 

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 05 July 2017   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Malatsi Malatsi

Sir Ketumile Masire's larger than life personality, who won insurmountable battles, must have foreseen his only defeat when he recently challenged his long time security detail, Malatsi Malatsi, with whom he had developed a very close and personal relationship to a duel. A clever man that he was, Masire must have foreseen his passing drawing closer when he crafted the duel such that whoever between them dies first would have won. According to Malatsi, shortly before his death Masire summoned him and declared a contest; "Monna Days, jaanong re mo racing, yo o tlaa itaang mogala pele o tlaabe a hentse" (Malatsi, now we are in a race, whoever touches the finishing line first would have won). Knowing the old man's artistic expression, Malatsi understood this to mean that because they were both aging whoever dies first would have beaten the other to the crown or won the race. Therefore Sir Ketumile's passing marked yet another victory for the former head of state. A source who worked closely with the Inter Congolese dialogue Secretariat says he recently bumped into Masire chatting to his bodyguard in a hardware store in Gaborone and quipped, "Dumela RraGaone, ona le rreMalatsi?". Joking about Malatsi's advanced age, to roaring laughter from those within earshot, Masire replied; "Ke na le Days. Owaii dingwaga di tsamaile ngwanaka. Ga re sa tlhole re itse gore mang o katile mang. Ha tshipi e ka thunya ha (Malatsi) o ka nna a sia a ntlogela".  Many, including Botswana's first President Seretse Khama, are on record waxing lyrical about Sir Ketumile's brilliance, intellect and commitment to the advancement of the country. But nobody knows Masire's intellect and personality better than the man who followed him around 24 hours a day as his security detail, Malatsi Malatsi. They first met in the early 1990s when Malatsi was still a junior police officer. Malatsi revered his boss after he was assigned his body guard from his days as a junior officer at Botswana Police Service. He confesses being drawn to Sir Ketumile by curiosity after the late Seretse Khama openly revealed to him that; "Quett ke monna yo o bothale, thale, thale. If I had about six Masires in my cabinet this country would be different". Under Seretse's administration where he was Vice President, Sir Ketumile often returned to work in the middle of the night to complete some assignments, in the process forcing his staff to be at the office at odd hours. Malatsi says on numerous occasions they were woken up in the middle of the night (around 3am) either to return to work or to undertake international travel. Working with Masire revealed to Malatsi a down to earth, unassuming man who brokered peace all over Africa where rebels were running amok, even employing unorthodox skills to bring the parties to negotiation table. In the end Masire always managed to get a result for his efforts. 

Always linguistically correct 

Sir Ketumile was a man with deep rooted Setswana culture, laced with humility (botho) and a great sense of humour and impeccable oratory skills in the vernacular. Former University of Botswana academic, who was taught by Masire in junior high (Form 1 to 3) at Capital Continuation Classes, history Professor Rodgers Molefi says Quett was "always linguistically correct" with his Setswana expressions. In paying tribute to Sir Ketumile on Wednesday, Malatsi remembers that from early interactions, after he was assigned to the presidential security, Masire would tease him insisting that the former must graduate from being matlhogojana and segatamarokgwana. Malatsi thanked Quett for encouraging and supporting him to graduate from being a segatamarokgwana or matlhogojana to a responsible family man he has grown to be. He was a peaceful man who hated to see any member of his staff unhappy or suffer in pain, often going to great lengths to provide support. He would extend any form of help equally to people around him, be it in times of bereavement, weddings, personal projects or any celebration. By far Sir Ketumile's frequent question to most of his male staff in informal discussions was "wena monna Days moraka wa gago o ko kae?", as he believed every Motswana should have a connection with agriculture as he did. "Despite being a head of state Sir Ketumile was classless – he preferred to live a normal life and enjoyed the company of ordinary mortals," says Malatsi. 

Malatsi says he is forever thankful to former President Festus Mogae for deploying him to "work with this old man" when Masire retired in 1998. 

Malatsi remembers Masire's favourites Tswana idioms

• bana ba kgwale ba bitsana ka molodi 

• mmualebe o bua la gagwe, gore mona le ntle a tle a letswe

• mahoko a kgotla a mantle otlhe 

• moseka phohu ya gaabo gaa swe lentswe 

• Hihing go tshwaranwa ka kobo 

• o ka isa pitse ko nokeng mme ga o kake wa e pateletsa go nwa metsi