Botswana
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A life well-lived

Matenge pioneer passes away at 107

Ask anyone in Matenge village about ‘Kwete’ or ‘BM’ and you’ll immediately be treated to countless stories about the colossal yet humble figure that was Baakile Mmolotsi Mbaakanyi.

On Thursday 31st March, Matenge’s favourite daughter-in-law passed away, breathing her last just three months shy of what would have been her 108th birthday.

This past weekend, hundreds of mourners turned up to pay their last respects to a matriarch, a selfless woman who offered herself and resources to the community, at times at the expense of her own family.

A staunch member of the UCCSA church, the late Mbaakanyi was a pioneer, credited with helping build up Matenge, a small but flourishing village in the north-east, some 60km from Francistown.

SHARING WISDOM: With first born, Nyaladzi Mmusi

Born in Serowe in 1914, Mma-Nyaladzi was a visionary. Part of her legacy includes spearheading the construction of both the kgotla office and first daycare centre in the village as well as the establishment of a mobile clinic.

A member of the Botswana Council of Women (BCW) for many years, Mbaakanyi was also voted Woman of the Year at the 2007 Emang Basadi Awards Gala held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC).

Her grandson, Frank Mbaakanyi, recalls that ‘Kwete’ was nominated by her equally-popular cousin, the self-made and legendary Gobe Matenge. The mother-of-five would go on to clinch the award ahead of more fancied nominees.

Her journey with the BCW is fascinating, as her daughter, Nyaladzi Mmusi, would tell mourners on Saturday.

Mmusi revealed her mother was so dedicated to the NGO, which she led in the north, and the emancipation of women that, despite her advanced age, she always felt she still had a lot to offer.

AWARD WINNER: Mbaakanyi with her 2007 Woman of the Year certificate

“It took a lot of effort to convince her to quit. We were worried because we’ve had incidents where she’d collapse in Francistown while attending to BCW issues,” recalled Mmusi, describing her mother as a lover of life, a giver and a hard-worker who always put others first.

“During her time, she could walk to Francistown and Masunga, and made sure to always remind us, and wondered why we couldn’t do the same,” continued Mmusi, chuckling happily at the memory.

Besides serving in the Village Development Committees (VDC), and winning Women in Community Building and Women in Social Change awards, Mbaakanyi is also the co-founder of Moyonchena Burial Society, which still operates in the village.

Her grieving son, Sam Mbaakanyi, described the loss of his mother as the most painful thing he’s ever experienced.

“We often don’t appreciate how deep their love is until they’re gone. A mother is any child’s first friend, and to lose one is such a painful experience,” he said.

Another speaker, High Court Judge, Zibani Makhwade, described the late Mbaakanyi as a community leader in Matenge.

Makhwade, who’s also related to the family, said he’s always known the Mbaakanyi yard to be a beehive of activity with people going in and out.

“To me, I later understood that it meant the house was run by an extraordinary woman, who welcomed everyone. Any home that has a welcoming wife will be thronged by visitors,” he said.

FINAL GOODBYES: Mbaakanyi with Frank, his partner, and toddler son, Solomon

“As for the days of our years, in them are 70 years; and if men should be in strength, 80 years; and the greater part of them would be labor and trouble; for weakness overtakes us, and we shall be chastened.”

Reverend Nthobatsang reminded mourners that God blessed Mbaakanyi with an extra 38 years, in which she continued to impact the lives of ordinary people.

“She was a truly remarkable and blessed human being,” concluded Nthobatsang aptly.

May Her Soul Rest in Peace.