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Remembering the unwanted: Paul “Ostrich” Rantao (1945-2005)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

We continue with the series where we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted, made immense contributions to the legacy we will be celebrating this year. This week we discuss Paul Rantao who passed away on 19th May 2005.

In remembering Rantao’s contributions we shall not pretend that he was without fault. His failures and faults will be exposed with the same vigor as his achievements and successes will. Yet, emphasis will be made that his faults notwithstanding he deserves a place in our country’s history. He at least deserves a mention when we celebrate fifty years of independence.

According his obituary, Rantao was born in Lehurutshe, Zeerust District in South Africa on 25th June 1945. He started his primary school education at St Condrad's Catholic Mission School in Ramotswa where he grew up.

Rantao then proceeded to St Joseph's College in 1965 where he obtained a Cambridge School Certificate in 1969 after he joined Radio Botswana as "Newsreel" programme producer. He studied for Mass Communications Honors Diploma at the University of Nairobi, Kenya between 1972 and 1974.

On his return from Kenya, he was appointed Editor of government run Kutlwano magazine. In 1976 he became Editor of the Daily News. In 1979 Rantao obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Political Science (double major) at Memphis State University in the State of Tennessee in the United States of America (USA).

When he came back from the USA he resumed his editorship of the Daily News until 1980 when he was promoted to become the Deputy Chief Press Officer with the Botswana Press Agency (BOPA). As Chairman of the Botswana Journalists Association (BOJA) he took part in the inauguration of the African Journalists' Union (AJU) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Perhaps because government had detected his political affiliation and was afraid that he may use his position in the government media to favour the Opposition, he was transferred to the Ministry of Education as the Principal Administration Officer. When he left the civil service, Rantao worked for the Botswana Federation of Employers, currently called Business Botswana.

Rantao, no doubt, did a lot for Botswana’s media. No wonder during his funeral the then MISA Botswana Chairperson, Amelia Malebane, said "…Rantao was well informed, a good reader and writer, a man with a razor blade sharp mind. Students of Media Studies at the University of Botswana were lucky to have been taught by such a man.’

Rantao, who became a Botswana National Front (BNF) activist in the 80s following his retirement from the civil service, had a selfless political career which was even admired by his political adversaries. He was elected Councilor for Village Ward in Gaborone in 1984.  

During Rantao’s funeral, the then Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Daniel Kwelagobe, said “Rantao's death is a great loss. He was a functionary in his party and very articulate in discussing national issues. He was a very effective representative of the people”.

The then Specially Elected Member of Parliament (MP), Botsalo Ntuane, said Rantao's untimely death came as a great shock to him as a Parliamentary colleague. He continued to say "… despite being in the Opposition, he was an MP that I looked up to for Parliamentary practice and experience. His incisive and spot on contributions were always laced with good humor. In Parliament Rantao was friendly with everybody. We will miss him greatly."

Kwelagobe and Ntuane could not have been more right for Rantao’s life was lived for the people. In 1984 he was elected Councilor in the Gaborone City Council which he served until he was elected Mayor, a position he held until the early 90s when another BNF Councilor, Ginger Enerst, ousted him. In 1994 he contested the then newly delimitated Gaborone West constituency and became its first MP.

However, Rantao’s political career was blemished by his decision to defect from the BNF. Following the infamous BNF infighting at a congress held in Palapye in 1998, Rantao, together with eleven other MPs, defected from the BNF and formed the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). In the 1999 general elections he lost his Parliamentary seat to Robert Molefhabangwe of the BNF.

It is this defection which negated the gains the BNF had made over the years and ensured the BDP’s recovery and continued rule to date. Were it not for the defection and the formation of the BCP, of which Rantao was instrumental given the influence he wielded at the time, the BDP would have likely lost the 1999 general elections.

At the BCP Rantao’s political life waned and although he was the party’s spokesman until he re-joined the BNF in 2002 his political life was never the same. In his apology for defecting from the BNF to the BCP he said "I used to be Saul now I am Paul".

Rantao was a journalist by training who put his journalism training to great use. As Information and Publicity Secretary, he effectively communicated the party position and rebutted BDP media statements that were detrimental to the party.  

After politics, he returned to his first love-journalism. He worked as a journalism lecturer at the University of Botswana, albeit for a short time. Rantao departed this world having authored the following publications: Botswana Political Diarist magazine; Independence Pimples and Payoffs; Impact of the Press of Public Policy Making in Botswana (MA Desertation, University of Botswana), and Makatolole Number One.

At the time of his departure from this world, Rantao had just authored and caused to be published an educative and scholarly book entitled Setswana Culture and Tradition. He was still working on the launch of his book entitled “Mokatolole.”

Rantao, affectionately called “Ostrich” because of his height and majestic walk, understood the plight of workers. When he left Parliament in 1999 he championed labour issues and represented workers through the labour consultancy company he ran with Jerry Gabaake. He also worked for the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU).

In June 1999 Rantao moved the famous motion where he wanted government to accept the 154 per cent wage increase demand by the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Manual Workers Union.

In motivating the motion Rantao said "…in the interest of social and distributive justice, Parliament should request government to accept the long-standing demand for a 154 per cent wage increase to cushion the effects of the rising inflation which has substantially eroded their purchasing power."

Rantao said it was important to listen to workers' unions when they complain about their salaries. He said government had ignored the workers for a very long time, noting that since the Union asked government to increase the minimum wage to P600 eight years ago, it had now been eroded by inflation.

Rantao’s shortcomings notwithstanding, he is no doubt a hero who deserves mention as we celebrate our country’s 50th anniversary of independence. I cannot put it better than Malebane who, during his funeral, said “Rantao's life was dedicated to politics, journalism, education and knowledge. He propelled the society towards the realization of Vision 2016. He suggested achievable things; he talked about achievable things…”

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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