It was just after the release of the 2008 BGCSE examination results. Swaneng Hill School had once again recorded the worst results with an awful 19.68% pass that condemned it as the hopelessly flunking school in the whole country.
It was then that I led a small group of Swaneng alumni and organised a motivational fair for the teachers and students to help ignite the minds at van Rensburg’s old school.
When we approached Pat, as many called him at Mmegi, with the suggestion of him going back to Swaneng and help inspire the school community he agreed right away. Pat was then already a frail old man and the request was just a long shot.
Although during the planning meetings I had to keep introducing myself, a day before the set date for the fair, the old man slowly drove his old Corolla from Gaborone to Serowe to attend the fair. He later relocated to Serowe to live with his son, Mothusi.
So in the wake of his death when his products from Mmegi , Methaetsile Leepile and Titus Mbuya, tasked me with the compilation of this tribute, I retraced Pat’s journey back to Swaneng to find out what is left of his legacy in Serowe.
The first stop was at Boiteko Mall where van Rensburg steered the Boiteko Projects. Boiteko Trust is currently headed by son, Mothusi and it manages the mall. Like his father, Mothusi is also heavily involved in the uplifting of the Serowe community through the trust’s projects. He revealed that the trust would soon build a public recreation park next to the mall.
At Serowe Brigades, Paul Mosimanegape is holding fort as the principal. Although he lists a plethora of problems the vocational training centre is facing that emanated from government’s ill-advised takeover of brigades, Mosimanegape says the recent redeployment of brigade institutions from the Ministry of Basic Education to Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Minister [Tshenolo] Mabeo wants to get back to van Rensburg’s approach of ‘training with production,’ ‘thuto le tiro’ and this would greatly revive the brigades,” he added.
A tour of the Farmers Brigade is not inspiring, as the place looks dilapidated even though it has students. It is a far cry from the farmers’ production hub that used to supply Serowe with fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese and vegetables.
Mosimanegape. But it turns out tenderprenuers have already preyed on the old structures that were built by former students as their refurbishment (read re-painting and roof replacement) was put under Economic Stimulus Programme and awarded to a local contractor.
Swaneng Coop shop at the Serowe mall has been leased to a Chinese businessman and there they are trading counterfeit goods.
Surprisingly as the printers are closing shop during this digital boom era, van Rensburg’s Serowe Printers Coop is still operating. The Printers, that used to print Mmegi, are still at Basimane ward where they relocated after breaking away from the brigades in 1990.
The once glorious Tshwaragano Hotel was ravaged by fire in 2015 and it is still a fire debris two years later.
The family has gathered together at Mothusi’s house next to Swaneng Hill School. Van Rensburg’s widow, Liz, known as Mma Masego in the village has just arrived with her first born son, Masego along with his wife, Maya, as well as grandchildren, Rosita and Katie. The grandchildren joined their cousin Tom Gaeboloke, Mothusi’s son.
Mma Masego says it has been heart-warming to spend time with old friends who took turns to visit and offer the family condolences.
She says their nostalgic conversations have brought back memories of her “amazing time living in Serowe with Patrick”.
We climbed together with the family to their ‘old house’ on Pat’s Hill inside Swaneng Hill School. On top of the hill, Liz observes the transformation: “The view is totally different. It used to be just shrubs down there. There was nothing when we settled here. We only had the Mataboge’s on the west and the eastern side was all bush”.
Today the school is much bigger than the Swaneng of van Rensburg and Serowe has rapidly developed.
I take the opportunity to throw Sandy Grant’s question to the family, “So what do we do with this man now that he has passed on?”
Liz hopes the nation can follow his crusade for social justice and community uplifting initiatives.
Mothusi urges students to think and learn with a mind of creating their own jobs. Masego talks about promoting ‘creativity’ and ‘being the change’.
As the family takes turns to describe their most notable moments with their father and husband, I notice there is no intimate description of van Rensburg because even the family gives a picture of a “hardworking working colleague and comrade” just like everyone that interacted with him.