The man who built living memories
Age is catching up with him and he can hardly remember most dates of events that happened in his life. But while his memory is slowly fading away he still has sharp eyes to read the newspaper that he founded some years back.
Meet our pioneer for this week, 79-year old Patrick van Rensburg, the brains behind the country’s leading daily newspaper, Mmegi and the man who introduced training brigades in the country.
“You can start something but there comes a time to let go and let others continue with it. I may have started Mmegibut I no longer call the shots, it is now for others to run and I must say I am happy with the state of affairs,” said Van Rensburg in an interview at his home in Maruapula, which also houses old Mmegi offices.
And although he is no longer involved in the daily affairs of the newspaper, he sits on the board of directors and is from time to time consulted when need arises.
“It has been a long journey judging from where and how we started and looking back it is hard to believe that we have come this far. However, I must acknowledge that when we started there was no competition so it was easy for us to penetrate the market,” he said of the paper that celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
The story of Mmegi
The village of Serowe seems to be awash with history as that is where the monthly, the weekly and eventually the daily paper was born.
Van Rensburg started the paperwhile he was the head teacher at Swaneng Hill Secondary School, a school thathe built together with his building and construction students.
It later spread to Shashe River and Madiba schools in Tonota and Mahalapye respectively, which again are schools that were started and built by Van Rensburg.
“We had our own printing press (which is still there in Serowe and now being run by his son) which made it easy and cheaper for us to produce the paper. The paper, which was then called Mmegi wa Dikgang, was also printed in Shashe River and Madiba schools for easy distribution. There was no print media then and so people relied on us to disseminate information,’’ he said.
He revealed that the newspaper which started with four staff members but now has more than 100 employees was a monthly,later became weekly and eventually the daily paper which churns out ‘news we need to know daily’.
Van Rensburg also revealed that when the paper was initially started it was through the goodwill of well-wishers who made sure that the paper went to bed as planned.
However the ‘bigger’ Mmegi got its funding from various organization in Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands with one of the Dutch retired editors being sent in to whip the newspapers into line of making it one of the best.
“I am sure that is what we are now (one of the best newspapers),” he said adding thatMmegi continues to grow with him blessing and supporting all the expansion that has taken place and continues to take place.
About Van Rensburg
Van Rensburg was born in South African on December 3 1931. He came to then Bechuanaland in 1963 after being invited by the country’s founding president Sir Seretse Khama after they met in the United Kingdom.
By that time he was in exile as he fled his country of birth due to his campaign against apartheid.
Since he was invited to come to Bechuanaland to start schools and educate Batswana that’s exactly what he did as he started Swaneng Hill, Shashe River and Madiba where he introduced education with development which also gave birth to the country’s brigades.
The schools were actually built by him and his students as he believed and still believes that education should not only be academic but practical skills orientated as well.