Rampholo had a measured gait. His tone was commanding, as it was captivating. He had an air of grace about him. Never mind the ever-present can of Lion lager by his table, as he worked day in and night out. He was a sucker for perfection. He detested a shoddy job. I am afraid, he will be very upset with this hurried homage that I am offering. Yet, with his generosity of spirit- perhaps flowing from his middle name, Augustine (after Saint Augustine) I am certain he will forgive me.
In any case, in the spirit realm souls have no bother with errors of mortal flesh. Chumza’s heart was indeed big. Like his sister, Wame, said at his funeral, his smile was a façade. It hid behind that booming voice, a pain so embedded, the magnitude of which none of us could imagine.
And this, as it became clear from Wame’s eulogy, was the disappointment of a missed opportunity to study at an Ivy League University in the United States of America. And why could he not? Well his father’s term as Botswana’s Representative to the United Nations had come to an end. The family had to return to Botswana from Rochelle.
Chumza carried this disappointment all his life. It bothered him that he did not have anything in terms of academic credentials to show. But really between you and me, we know that he was an erudite person. Even trombonist, Jonas Gwangwa attested to this truism at the funeral service. He had the command of the Queen’s language. Well read. His elucidations on however diverse topics were revealing. In fact, the country’s authorities feared Chumza’s pen.
They respected him, although that respect bordered on fear of the unknown. They suspected that his writings could brew public agitation. Perhaps this also explains why he could never land a job with any of the local publications. In fact, at one point when he responded to an advertisement for the post of editor with one of the papers, he was told to his face that he was ‘over-qualified!’ He told me this with a pain in his heart. He was tired of freelancing and contributing columns.
He would have preferred a regular job in which he could groom reporters into seasoned journalists. Well, Chumza has departed this world, but his works remain astute, defying and confounding all critics. If you doubt this, go through all the early editions of Botswana Guardian, The Midweek Sun, Mmegi, Mmegi Monitor, Mokgosi, Botswana Gazette and Sunday Standard. There you will find his footprints. The country’s writers and journalists have lost a jewel in Chumza. His dedication to the advancement of workers’ welfare was a passion he cherished to the grave.
Who can argue against his registration of Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU), Botswana Writers Association (WASBO), Botswana Journalists Association and its successor, which never got off ground, Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union? It is so disheartening to see pretenders at the helm, confusing everybody and distorting reality in the process, when well-meaning professionals are relegated by societal conventions to the background. Such has been our story in Botswana’s journalism. I remember how Chumza fought so gallantly when the University of Botswana Media Studies began to ensure that it would produce well-rounded graduates.
How we engaged the university authorities then in an effort to ensure that even the practising journalists- most of which did not have university degrees- could be absorbed into the programme. I am afraid, even as he sleeps, Chumza’s dream has not been realised. The late founding Australian professor Wayne Levy of the Media Studies knows pretty well the sting of Chumza’s pen and the fountain of his wisdom, from which those that thirsted for knowledge drunk. There were other projects too that Chumza immersed himself in.
And whenever he embarked on an undertaking he would do so wholesomely. The public may never know that at one point he proposed to start a community newspaper that he would call ‘The Reader.’ Sadly, without a sponsor the project could not see the light of day, but its concept remains ever relevant to this day! As for me, I shall always comfort myself with the time we spent together with Douglas Tsiako and Doreen Kgakole on the magazine ‘The Writer.’ When BOJA was at its peak, Chumza realised there was need to involve members of the public.
And so the Press Club- a semi autonomous organ- sprang up. There is not a single sane mind today that can dispute the tremendous contribution to the national discourse that the Press Club made.As its publicity officer at the time, I was tasked with identifying newsmakers and topical issues for discussion at its various venues- The Watering Hole, BNPC, President Hotel and Cresta Marakanelo.
Now here was a man who embodied the sum total of our society. I recall a conversation with Alice Mogwe mid last year, when she intimated that Chumza is misplaced in Botswana society that he belongs to a society where independent thought and inquisitive minds are cherished. It is not late though. We can still make amends to claim him in death because in life we despised him.
May your soul find eternal rest Chumzola!
Rampholo Molefhe - Born: January 27, 1956, Died: December 24, 2012. He was buried in Gaborone on December 30, 2012.