Keabonye Ntsabane – a woman who has positively impacted the lives of many
Walter Payton – nicknamed ‘Sweetness’ – is not only celebrated for being one of the greatest professional players of American football (NFL), but as well for his famous words, “Remember, tomorrow is promised to no one!”
The sports icon’s sentiments were echoed by local veteran media and gender activist, Keabonye Ntsabane, during her 68th birthday celebration last Saturday at Avani Resort.
With under 2 years to 70 (her actual birthday was in January), the selfless activist, who in 2018 received the Presidential Certificate of Honour in Recognition of Long and Faithful Service to Botswana, decided to bring together friends, family, mentors and mentees to celebrate her life as indeed only ‘The Lord knoweth the days of the upright’ (KJV).
Among the many influential women who have blazed a trail in the areas of women’s rights, politics, media, education and business was her role model, former Head Teacher of Ithuteng Primary School (wife of late former VP) Peter Mmusi, Louisa Mmusi.
Mma-Mmusi reflected on the genesis of her lifelong friendship with Mma Ntsabi, whom she referred to as a daughter.
“I first met Mma Ntsabane in the 80s when I was head teacher at Ithuteng Primary School. She was an untrained teacher; I was attracted to her determination and hard work, and later encouraged her to apply for a teaching course at Tlokweng Teachers’ College. From there, she went on to work for NGOs as she’s not only philanthropic but loving. As it is, in Taung village, she serves the elderly. Recently, she organised food hampers for them. Mma Ntsabi has been an exemplary figure in society. My wish is that there were more people like her. She’s also a highly appreciative person who understands that to whom much is given, much is expected – thus she realises ‘God desires that we be vessels unto honor’,” she said, calling Ntsabane a true patriot whose many contributions have made a difference not only to her small community of Taung where she is currently a Botswana Democratic Party councillor for Taung (Ramotswa), but to the country in its entirety.
A volunteer for Botswana Red Cross from 1977 to 1980, Mma Ntsabane built solid relationships at the beginning of her illustrious career.
One such was fellow social justice advocate, counsellor and co-founder of Emang Basadi, Ntombi Setshwaelo.
She said it was so easy to speak about Mma Ntsabane at a moment’s notice.
“I’ve known her since the 80s in the women’s movement space; the first thing that struck me about her was how passionate she was; she’s a journalist. She’s been there soldiering on; it is a hard job trying to fight a cause that’s unpopular. It is said politics is a dirty game but we trust her; Mma Ntsabane possesses all qualities and she has to hear this while she’s alive, and we must all strive to have them: empathy, respect, honesty, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, sincerity and courage,” she said.
Former Deputy Secretary General of the Red Cross, Tebogo Mangadi, who is also a relative, spoke glowingly of a woman who she said has used her time and resources for social justice.
“She was in the youth department, which she made attractive for the youth as she came up with projects for them, using funds from places such as Australia to see to it that the youth can indeed benefit from them by implementing the various programmes. We nicknamed her ‘Story’ or ‘Sister’, because each day, she had a tale to tell, whether positive and negative, from the field. A hard worker and inspiration; she inspired me to pursue my second degree after she attained hers. One of the things I love about Sister is that she adores her children, forgives easily, doesn’t hold grudges. If we were like her, there’d be no hate or evil in this world.”
The dedicated patriot’s first cousin, Spana Motsisi (nee Batselelwang), reiterated that Mma Ntsabane is an impossible-to-emulate leader who has served with distinction.
“There’s so much to say about my cousin. Though our parents are no more, elders such as Mma Nametso (former first lady, Barbara Mogae), Mma Mmusi, Mma Legwaila, and Mma Setshwaelo, who knew our parents, have spoken so well of my cousin. She has a big heart and is exceptional. We’re gathered here today because she is grateful to all of us; let’s all try to follow her example. Mma Ntsabane didn’t go into the women’s movement because of she was unemployed. I grew up with her and witnessed her adversity, which shaped her to become the altruistic individual she is; her journey is a testament to her resolute spirit.”
Former High Court Judge and Minister, Unity Dow, also spoke about the enduring life and legacy of Mma Ntsabane.
“Often, you can tell somebody’s character by the way they speak… present themselves… what they’ve said or done before: motho o bonwa ka ditiro tsa gagwe. You can also tell someone’s character by the diversity of the people around that person; if there’s consensus about their character. We can all agree that Mma Ntsabane is consistent; she’s the same person to all people, young and old. I do not recall any time that Mma Ntsabane asked for help from me for herself; she’s about serving other people and that is what we are celebrating today – a light that says, ‘I came here for other people’. Today, we are celebrating consistency of character, to all people, all the time,” she said to a resounding round of applause.
True to her philanthropic nature, Mma Ntsabane thanked all her guests, and organisers – Sadi Keitseope, Mma Motlhabane, Tebogo Mangadi, Thapelo Phuthego and Banyana Segwe.
She also honoured some of the women she’s featured in her column in The Voice Newspaper like former councillor, Rhoda Sekgororoane and former Gaborone mayor, Veronica Lesole.
A recipient of the British Council HIV/AIDS award, the passionate philanthropist is the author of a gender-based violence book called ‘Monate Botlhoko’, as well as an HIV/AIDS literacy manuscript.