At 22 years old, Malatsi Malatsi was forced to abandon studies and join the then Botswana Police Force (BPF), now Police Service- instead of proceeding to Cambridge as his parents could not afford the school fees.
Standing 1.8 metres tall, the dark complexioned young man’s physical appearance qualified him to be counted amongst those good enough to intimidate law offenders.American author, professional speaker, and business trainer, Jeffrey Gitomer seems to have had Malatsi in mind when he wrote;
“You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day by day.” That is exactly what Malatsi did throughout his service. Decades later, Malatsi recounts with great nostalgia how his loyalty, hard work, good conduct, inquisitive searching mind, being alert always and ready to serve, earned him confidence of both the presidency and his principals- a matter that handed him the position of presidential bodyguard which gave him an opportunity to travel around the world accompanying the head of State.
Bodyguards by nature come very closely to those whom they are assigned to look after; they become confidantes, are trusted and at times become life time partners. This is exactly what happened to Malatsi and Masire relationship. Theirs is a story good enough for a documentary. His is extraordinary, twice he retired and his loyalty paid dividends as he was recalled, the second time while above the age limit.
Speaking to BG News in an exclusive interview, Malatsi who is armed with a Junior secondary certificate from Mater Spei College in Francistown reveals that he joined the Force on 29th January 1974 after completing 6-month training as a Constable Malatsi was posted to Serowe.
The new position marked the beginning of a bright future as he was working under Stock theft in particular assigned to the area that housed President Seretse Khama’s farm. By then many thugs used to steal Seretse’s cattle. The move enabled Malatsi to work closely with farm manager David Lekhutlile. He remembers that this is where he proved his mettle as Seretse liked him because he was a hard worker and always ready to resolve whatever matter was outstanding.
He recalls that Seretse liked self-motivated people and trusted him so much that he often borrowed him a truck and sent a driver to his cattle post.
Becoming a bodyguard
Still a Constable, ‘Days’ as he is affectionately known, was transferred to Gaborone three years later and stationed under the Police Protection Unit and the Special Branch – the units which gather intelligence as well as protect Sir Seretse Khama until he passed on in 1980.
Subsequent to becoming a bodyguard, Malatsi got to meet with Masire. He confesses that he developed a liking for him because Masire and Seretse were inseparable and the latter used to talk in volumes about how good Masire is so much that he used to say he wished he could have six Masires in his cabinet.
“What made me to like Masire is because he was liked and loved by my Chief, Kgosi Seretse Khama”. The two were inseparable; they used to hold working meetings in the middle of the night. By then the vice president’s residence was not guarded and each time when Seretse wanted Masire in the late hour he would send us to pick him up”. But death being what it is, it robbed this country of Seretse with Malatsi still a Constable and Presidential bodyguard.
However, Malatsi remained focused and earned his first stripes in 1984 when he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He recalls that Masire who called himself a farmer on loan to politics was highly industrious and had very little time to rest.
“What brought us more closely to each other is that I never allowed Masire to do any home chores without offering a helping hand. In most cases this happened either at his farms when he was fencing the farms. In a nutshell, I did not limit myself to a mere bodyguard. But, I disregarded my conditions of service and participated in everything Masire did, be it cattle branding, dehorning, collection of poles etc”.
He says that Masire branded him a hard worker. “One day at his farm in Gantsi I worked the entire day assisting his farm boys to prepare a place where cattle would be watered near the borehole”. Certainly Malatsi’s extraordinary skills were noticed just like Actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich said, “It’s the friends that you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter”.
The next years from 1987 saw Malatsi being promoted to the rank of Sub inspector, then Inspector in 1992 and 1997 Assistant Superintendent in 1997 and Superintendent in 2000, the rank that he held until his retirement. In1998 Masire retired from the presidency and followed nature poet, Henry David Thoreau’s theory, “Be true to your work, your word, and your friends” by recommending that Malatsi be appointed to look after him something which President Festus Mogae acceded to.
Malatsi retired in 2008, but Masire refused despite having originally agreed and held a big lunch for him. “I was offered a three year contract until 2012”. But, just like the legendary musician, Bob Marley would say, “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just have to find the ones worth suffering for”, Masire had found a lot out of Malatsi.
Malatsi recalls that last year Masire called and invited him to accompany him to Gantsi. “He also informed me that he has a trip to Mozambique lined up and would like to take me along. When we parted he signed me a cheque for P2000 and spoke in his rich Setswana idioms that ‘Pilediwa ea lwelwa’. He also asked that we keep in touch and that we must call each other anytime of the day. He treated me like his son and shared with me a lot of things including his personal top secrets.
“To my surprise it did not take long for Masire’s children to treat me like their elder brother”. He has many behind the scenes stories to tell on what happened each time Masire and his best friends namely President Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, met. Although he describes Masire as being stubborn, he lauds Masire’s interpersonal skills and how he used to defuse tension by bursting in his trademark laugh during the time when he was reconciling warring political parties of DRC. “This laugh used to make them laugh a lot”. Malatsi says as if he was bidding the nation farewell, the only time he differed with Masire is recently.
Because of his easy going character, Masire embraced all especially the youth. He hugged and allowed all to take selfies with him. “On many occasions I cautioned him about the danger as the youth are likely to post such pictures on different walls of the social media, but that was the least of his worries”.
Both Masire and Malatsi seem to subscribe to the late champion boxer Muhammad Ali who said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything”.
Malatsi is third born in a family of seven of which four have passed on. He is married to Kolobetso and blessed with four children, two boys and two girls.