Sir Donald McKinnon, former secretary general of the Commonwealth, in his foreword, described it as the compelling account of a life so well lived, with a strong political and personal legacy. I agree. Absolutely!
In this book, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe himself not only tackles a wide range of subjects from the Lesoma incident to the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) issue to his relations with the private media and political opponents, but also reveals information that has never been put in public domain.
Born and raised in Serowe, his life changed dramatically when a confluence of circumstances put him in a police uniform as a Constable in pre-independence Botswana, before he was ultimately connected to the political power grid to become Botswana’s sixth vice president decades later.
The General, as he was fondly known to many, was the man, if any, to achieve such a feat. He had enormous intellectual ambition.
This book does more than tell The General’s personal story. It also traces Botswana’s history from the time he became conscious of his surroundings to the time he retired from public service in 2012 after 52 years of diligent service to the nation. To read through the first two chapters, is to be reacquainted with his humble beginnings and modest education.
There are other aspects of his early achievements as a police officer, prosecutor and army general. It is clear, for example, that he saw his task as one not of power but as a call to perform his duty “according to the will of his people and by the grace of God.”
His early days in party politics bring out the best in him. The General was no longer the combative army chief, but a rising political figure acutely aware of the political forces at play and of the pressures associated with party politics.
He shares his experiences about his maiden political campaign in Mahalapye, where he described his opponent “as a political novice of sorriest order” on the basis of the latter’s campaign methods. He says while his opponent questioned his kinship with the people of Mahalapye as he was from Serowe, he restricted his campaign pitch purely to issues of substance.
The General explains that the opposition candidate’s campaign was not based on serious self-evaluation but rather on political adventurism, adding that the latter was clearly the architect of his own defeat.
The book also takes you through his years as Botswana’s top diplomat and exceptional custodian of Botswana’s foreign policy, a task that will always be marked with distinction.
As one commentator noted, this book is “…a wonderful store of knowledge about our beacon and guiding light in the diplomatic service, who transformed himself from being a army general to a consummate diplomat with the ability to take debates on global challenges to a higher level…”
You do not necessarily have to be knowledgeable or politically-conscious to realise that The General was one of the outstanding political figures within living memory. This book provides insight into the life of one of the most striking, interesting and influential figures of our times.
It is a story of a rare genius, who will without doubt stand high in the records of the fine achievement in the fields of Diplomacy and Leadership.
Towards the end, he shares his experiences as vice president and leader of the House. He reminisces about his exchanges with a youthful opposition politician, whom, by his own admission, did not come across as an adversary per se, but an otherwise brilliant and articulate son of the soil.
In his own words, Merafhe quips: “…it thrilled me beyond words that the free education that the BDP-led government provided was not going to waste if it could turn out products of such high intellectual acumen…”
In essence, this book gives an account of Botswana’s tireless, true patriot who will undoubtedly take his place in the roll of principled modern time leaders. No political figure in modern Botswana was ever the subject of more unremitting attention on the part of the media and social commentators. This is a refreshing and interesting read that shall leave everyone spellbound.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.