Setswana lexicographer and linguist Thapelo Joseph Otlogetswe states that he is different ‘things’ to different people. Family matters more that the public life and he says that he wants to raise his two sons well and be a good husband to his wife of 10 years, Shinie.
The 39-year-old Kanye-born describes his wife as a beautiful, humble and faithful woman. He likes the fact that she fits in with his family and friends. She works for Boitekanelo College under the human resources department. Otlogetswe is the youngest in a family of three boys. “Family is very critical and time not spent with them haunts when one looks back,” he says.
He is very open about where he comes from: Growing up in the 1980s, they were not a wealthy family. They used to get food rations such as malutu and dinawa from government clinics and that touched him at an individual level. It taught him to dream big.
A pure beneficiary of free government education, Otlogetswe discovered himself at Seepapitso Secondary School. He got involved in school and class debates. He also developed interest in the late Martin Luther King’s writings. Further, as a boarding student, he learned how to play a guitar and would play it in front of the school body during assembly. At the University of Botswana (UB), guitar and music became an important part of his life and he joined the school band and travelled with it outside the country.
He enjoys watching news channels and documentaries. His favourite music is gospel, and that includes Hillsong, Jonathan Butler and Delirious. He also likes gospel jazz. Locally, he likes Motswako rappers DramaBoi, Eureka and HT.
“Their music is academically stimulating and I like the way they do their thing in Setswana,” he says, urging lawyers and other musicians to tap in. He likes eating dikgobe or madombi and nama. A firm Christian who joined the Pentecost Holiness Church in 1986, Otlogetswe is a teetotaler. But he has different views about drinking, thanks to his stay in the United Kingdom (UK) where he did his PhD in 2008. He visited a home Christian fellowship meeting where he was shocked but also fascinated when believers were worshipping and drinking at the same time.
He learned then that alcohol in Africa is abused. He also began to revisit the scriptures that indicate that theologically, alcohol is not bad at all. “I still don’t think alcohol defiles you and I don’t have time to judge people who drink,” he says. He reads Christians books and Christian philosophy, termed Apologetic, which is written to defend the faith. He also likes photography and does not have time to read novels. But again he also enjoys reading biographies and autobiographies.
Cape Town is his favourite holiday destination, and to him it is like an English city, hence he always pinches himself every time he is there to feel himself. Close by, he likes Magaliesburg. He is yet to travel the Okavango area.
Otlogetswe is confident that he is making a mark in his dictionary writing, hence his latest Setswana dictionary Tlhalosi ya medi ya Setswana. He pats his back as he discloses how he has had a rapid move in his career compared to the average university lecturer, who usually takes around 10 years to be a senior lecturer. “When I’m gone, my work will bring pride and dignity to Batswana,” he says.