Yesterday Thato called me with some really bad news, Major Nelson Mautle passed away. Major Mautle is one of my favorite people. Maybe I should use was, but his passing away does not change that status. The Major was one of the most driven people I have known, and in Botswana that is saying a lot. He would get on to people about being late, not following protocol (which sometimes drove me crazy, but I understood why he did that), and just plain wasting time. He spent 2 years in the US (1985-1987 I think) studying then came back to Botswana. He spent some time in the military and worked with the government. By the time I met him he was retired and had moved on to the next phase of life. But retirement to him did not mean just sitting back and letting things happen, he wanted to make a change. He served on the VDC (Village Development Committee), was head of Men’s Sector, always at the DMSAC and a part of pretty much everything going on in Hukuntsi. In Botswana many people can serve on a council and not do anything, but not the Major. He had a very distinct voice and I was assured to hear him outspoken at every event. Sometimes it was calling out protocol issues, but normally it was pointing out obvious flaws in data or questioning how issues would be addressed. Botswana has a strong passive aggressive culture. Often people will not want to contradict anyone or swim upstream, but the Major was definitely a salmon especially if he saw ill affects to ignoring a problem.
He also had high goals. The first time I met him he brought up wanting help trying to get the desalination project restarted in Zutshwa. Things kept getting in the way between me fracturing my foot and going to SA for surgery, him falling ill, and other obstacles. This did not stop him from trying to get it accomplished, although I am afraid it might be out of the scope of what we can do during our short time here.. He did lots of research and last time I spoke with him he was still talking about it.
One of my favorite memories of him was during the African Child Event. We arrived at the Kgotla after it had started (we had not intended to go for the whole thing and just wanted to sneak in and watch from the back rather than getting put in a prominent position of VIPs as often happens). At first we walked up to the outside of the Kgotla to scope it out and decide where to slip in. The Major caught sight of us, yelled at us to come over (I had my shoe off trying to get a thlolele..probably really misspelled that but they are the spikeys all over the ground around here…out of my foot). Since we did not come immediately, he walked over to the fence right through the middle of the event and cajoled us to come and sit mentioning that there were seats saved for us. Honestly we should have known better, but I felt like a small child after that and am always sure to do what I know I should at events like that. I laughed about that for a long time and still smile thinking about it.
He was constantly stopping in the office for business or just greeting me while passing by. It always brightened my day. He always a warm smile and a kind word. Since he has been ill I have noticed the difference that his not being around has made on me.
I really miss him and but am lucky to have known him. Although I am not religious, I know he was. I hope his life after death is everything he had hoped it would be. His presence in my life, although short has made me a better person. He will always be with me in my memories. My thoughts are with his family and although we are all mourning his death, I hope we will remember to celebrate his life.