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Farewell FK, Death Took the Man in Black, Farewell FK!



We Feel You FK, We Remember You
We Shall Always Remember You, We Shall Not Forget You

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim! Death came, knocked, we went into denial, we decided that we did not hear it, only after its stole FK, who was on an intellectual adventure, we then recalled that; but death did reach our shores, did knock and shouted, and FK did not tell us, that he had told death, that; I am coming home!

The theatre industry has lost an icon, a passionate theatre practitioner, a mentor, and inspiration and a lover of stage craft. Dr. Fani-Kayode Osazuwa Omoregie who was simply known as FK both to theatre practitioners, his students, his friends and members of staff at the University of Botswana.  At his memorial service this past week, Vuyisele Otukile rightfully remarked that FK was a man of consistency. He only wore black……koore akanya hela monna anna hela aapere bontsho….keha ese story sebolaya motho ka kapiri yagagwe…….jkg…!…I met FK for the first time in the year 2000 at the University of Botswana where I was his student.

FK did not only teach English, he spoke it well with that Nigerian accent. He did not look like your typical Nigerian. The ones we meet at Mogoditshane and Hilbrow. He was neat, light skinned, with a warmth attitude. But something that struck everyone to a point of associating him with all kinds of things was that, he only wore black clothes. He drove a nice black car. He always had his black shoes shining and spotless. But his office was something else, it was a total mess. He was a Theatre Practitioner, a Practical Theatre Lecturer. His was not only an office, it was a space we met him to discuss scripts, to go through lines and worse enough, we kept our attire and props in his office. This is the space he shared with us, with his books and with all the props and costume that the ordinary audience see on stage after a set.

I recall the many moments that I walked into his class a few minutes after 7am, and FK had already left. He had this thing that 5 or so minutes after 7am, more than half of the class should have arrived. If that did not happen, he will simply go back to his office. If you came when the lesson had begun, you simply could not walk into either his class or the then student hall which we used as our theatre studio. I realise that now the University of Botswana has a proper theatre studio. I can only imagine the hustle he went through to get such approved.  Our practical classes always began at 7am. It was his choice, he could have opted otherwise, but just like the late Professor Gilbert Sekgoma who taught me International Relations, FK opted for morning sessions. I hope that sounds well…well…it does…!…

I was to later confess to FK that though I am on paper an on campus student, I was in reality residing in Jwaneng where my late mother and my wife both resided. Except for my first year, I spent most of my varsity days driving from Jwaneng to Gaborone in the mornings and back to Jwaneng in the evenings. I had several projects going on, I had Abronia Theatre Productions Family scattered around the whole country to coordinate, I was trying my best to have Rasina Holdings running, and to be there for my then girlfriend. I also needed to spend some time at home, with my mother to continue gaining sanity and wisdom.

I was always travelling, and this naturally meant I was always away and hardly in class. Of course this was recognisable. It was only after I had explained this whole scenario to FK, in his office, after he had spent two weeks not even exchanging greetings with me that he began to appreciate the life I was leading. He will call when I am away. He will remind me of deadlines. He will also call for various other issues even beyond varsity life. This was FK, he hated to be lied to, for some reason he easily picked up a lie. The best way to deal with FK, no matter how much you had messed up, was to simply own up and tell him the truth. No matter how embarrassing it could be, you will be sure to be off the hook…gape akanya hela ore oaketsa mo Nigeri…osimolola hakae tota…?…

For most of us artists, we are generally very moody. The only good part is that we are able to play happy and receptive even in our dark moments. Theatre practitioners in particular are quite shy to engage openly in the streets unless with their close friends and fellow practitioners. But what was also different about FK was that he was moody, sometimes irritatingly grumpy even to us his fellow practitioners. Those who have been through FK’s Practical Theatre classes will particularly remember him as a that moody lecture who could simply spend two weeks without greeting anyone he will be at that point in time having issues with……bathong monna yole oneakgona gogongalela gore obo otlhaselwe ke bana ba pheho mo mogoteng wa tladi eamusa…!…But you see, when it was all done and dusted, when he was back to his happy moods, he was willing to engage and share with you where you made him unhappy. I was one of those who was always waiting for this moment. I always took advantage of such moments.

I was in the same Practical Class with the likes of Tomeletso Sereetsi who is now full time artist of the much embraced album; ‘four strings confessions’. I also recall Charles Tsiane who is now a teacher and a heavily loaded trade unionist. Charles Tsiane and FK were until the death of the latter, planning on starting a production house for the advancement of the theatre industry. I recall this particular two very well because of the trip that we took to Ghanzi and Maun respectively to perform the production; ‘Gaborone South’ which was written and Directed by FK. I recall these particular two friends because, the three of us had some teaching assistant roles to play both in FK’s classes and this subsequent production which was also used to determine cumulative assessment (CA), not only for us but the rest of the class…tota nna hela gobua nnete…I still don’t know how FK worked out the whole thing. I mean, a class of about 30 students or less, taking part in a theatre production; ‘Gaborone South’, of which all could not get a recognisable role, some being some sort of teaching assistants, yet having to be all graded fairly under one roof…gake batle gobua sepe ka kgang e…etloga enna okare bangwe rediretswe favours…

FK was visibly a fit and strong man both emotionally and physically, and the girls loved him…gontse hela jalo…hago molato goratwa…I have already mentioned that he was neat, always clean shaven and with outmost confidence and wearing that smile that he shared, mood allowing, with the world. Though quite uncomfortable to mention this; I am glad I did not get to see, meet and greet the slim, weak and ailing FK. I doubt I will have recovered from that sight. I am told that when he went back to work after his first illness, he looked frail and thin yet he joked to his students, those who looked stronger than him that ‘enjoy whilst it last, I shall be back’. He was to later get back to hospital, spent some time there and was to later never walk nor breathe again.

FK, on behalf of your former students, let me tell you this, we feel you FK, we remember you, we shall always remember you, and we shall not forget you, for we carry a part of you throughout our lives. FK, you taught us, trained us, inspired us and mentored us. We could have been nothing, but because of your selfless dedication and desire to ensure we realise our potential, we are something. We are because you were FK.

Dr. Fani-Kayode Osazuwa Omoregie was born on the 25th December 1963 in Nigeria. He obtained B.A.[Hons] and M.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Jos Nigeria in 1985 and 1988 respectively and a PhD from the University of Botswana in 2013. He worked as a lecture at the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Jos between 1986 and 1992. He then moved on to the University of Zimbabwe where he stayed from 1992 until 1996. Between 1995 and 1996, he was the Chairman of the Theatre Arts Department at the University of Zimbabwe. He joined the University of Botswana in January 1997 as lecture in Drama in the English Department. He was promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer in October 2012. He was transferred to the Department of Visual and Performing Arts after its establishment in 2013 where he remained up to the time of his passing. His passion was in the field of technical theatre, set and lightning design. He has published widely in local, regional and international journals. He was and is, an accomplished playwright and director for both stage and screen. He has mentored, inspired and assisted many creative artists wherever he has been to. He leaves behind a legacy that will endure for a very long period. Allahur Akbar!

The Journey Continues,

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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