Departed Solomon Rabotapi Tlhapane was fondly eulogized at an emotional send-off over the weekend before an overflow crowd at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Gaborone.
Born in South Africa in 1928, the founding Secretary General of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), relocated to Botswana in the 60s where he established business investments.
Last week the 89-year-old Tlhapane’s death became a subject of police investigations, following a tip-off from a morgue where his body had been abandoned for months.
The deceased’s Zimbabwean gardener, Bhekizwe Nkomazana, who was also his caretaker as his two daughters live in the UK and South Africa respectively, is in police custody helping with investigations.
Together with his girlfriend, Ketshepile Sharon Lompehu, Nkomazana is said to have fleeced Tlhapane’s estate of P3.9million.
On Saturday morning, as messages of comfort cut through the somber air and wreaths laid on the casket, a relative- Oupa Matsepe, told of how the family was going through trying times as they struggled to come to terms with the old man’s death.
The situation, he said, has not been helped by the fact that the dates and the information supplied are in contradiction with police findings. “We have a letter here from Rustenburg retirement home for old people which states that Tlhapane was sick and admitted on the 25th of February 2016, treated and discharged on the 14th of March 2016. On June 26th he became very sick and his condition deteriorated. He passed on, on the 10th of August. It shows the ‘family’ was informed to fetch his body and we all know that those people are not anyhow related to us,” said Matsepe.
The religious Matsepe who added that the family had resolved to leave everything to God said what hurts the most were reasons advanced by Nkomazana when applying for bail. “He says he wants bail so that he can feed the dogs. What I can say is he seems to be the dog that bit the hand that fed it,” he quipped.
The deceased’s sister, Meisie Tlagadi, said she was still shocked and she thought such incidents happen in crime strewn areas such as Soweto and not a peaceful country like Botswana.
She said Tlhapane was a loving and caring father. Tlagadi said the accused needs prayers as money is the root of all evil.
On behalf of ANC veterans, party activist Zakes Tolo, said the police report still needs to be verified and more investigations done to establish the cause of ‘Bra Sol’s’ death.
He described Tlhapane as staunch human rights activist who despised oppression and never wanted to work for the white man. “He believed that a black person can be a game changer and I’m glad that indeed he achieved his dream of being a successful businessman before he died. He was a restless entrepreneur who ventured into different businesses. Solly was the founder of Medupe Gas and Exploration and he partnered with me, Don Ncube and Anglo American,” said Tolo.
Tlhapane was the last born of four children born to Johannes and Mariam Tlhapane.
He was born on the 12th January 1928 at 86 Tucker Street in Sophiatown.
By 1959 Sophiatown was no more as every black person had been evicted and moved to Soweto.
Solly married his wife Euphemia Nana Ngwewu in 1959.
Because of the pressure on his family particularly the banning of his wife they decided to go into exile in Botswana.