It is often the habit of those who were born in the townships, towns and cities to look down on their fellow compatriots who hail from the countryside, and sadly it has come to be accepted as a norm. In South Africa these humble beings from the hinterlands are often called ‘plaasjappies’ which loosely translates to country bums. Unfortunately this here dear reader is a tragedy of ignorance, an exorbitant price one pays if they do not open their mind to learning. If history is to teach us anything, despite our goldfish memory, the countryside is where the wealth of talent lies waiting to be unearthed. I could give you a long list of men and women hailing from the bucolic lands of our country and continent who have shaped global history but I will not bore you. I elect rather to share the future with you. So for the rest of this piece allow me the fantasy of occupying the shoes of an oracle.
If you were to travel 140km north-west of the small town of Vryburg, in the platinum wealthy province of North West, known amongst its handful residents as the ‘Texas of South Africa’, you will end up in a very large village which hitherto has begun to mimic the lifestyle of a lively town with its big houses and the unabated traffic of the masses on the streets. Never mind the posh German cars that have almost become the furniture in this village. Along the way, almost exactly halfway from Vryburg to the village in question, you would have passed Ganyesa, another bustling village that can hardly wait for the day it is declared a town. Just a few kilometres south of Ganyesa lies a much smaller village of Tlapeng. While development may be miles away from this little village, it is recognised with high prestige and reverence in the books of history. Tlapeng claims fame as the birthplace of the late struggle stalwart Mme Segomotsi Ruth Mompati, now resting eternally in her adopted home of Huhudi in Vryburg.
But back to the vast village that lies 140km north-west of Vryburg. This village is called Morokweng. It lies not very far from the border of Botswana along the dry Molopo River. Morokweng is home to a lot people, maybe more than its town Vryburg given that majority of people there originate from different villages around North West, including Morokweng. Like every city, town or village has its own moniker that is often used by its natives, particularly when they are excited, Morokweng too has its own. It is known by its people as Rockville.
So yes, Rockville is home to a large number of people if one considers the usual population of a village. But it is especially and proudly the hometown of one Moagi Diamond Ntsime, an Aviation Engineer who did not need to walk through the doors of a university to know how to build a helicopter. If directly translated Moagi means builder, but if taken with its profound Setswana roots, it means creator, innovator or pioneer. They say a mother knows and if Moagi’s innovative and pioneering talents are anything to go by, then one can confidently say that indeed she knew.
The highest education Moagi obtained was sitting for Grade 12 at Monchusi Secondary School right in Morokweng. He studied Mathematics and Physical Science. It is here where Moagi truly developed his love for engineering and innovation. He built a small chopper with scrap metals. The pioneer that he is, he later had an idea to expand his project. He collected more scrap metals to build a helicopter big enough to carry normal sized people (the chopper can carry two passengers). Most of us spent three years or more in university to study engineering, seeking to understand the dynamics of this sophisticated faculty that without a doubt requires the brains of the most gifted; and Moagi, whose accident of his birth should have condemned him to a village, to borrow the words of that great African from the village of Mbewulweni, refused to let his mental faculties to be limited to the boundaries of Morokweng, conceived, designed and built a helicopter that would otherwise need one to undergo extensive training in Aviation Engineering. To describe such magnificent innate talent, the word remarkable springs to mind. South Africa, Africa, this is not the story of Morokweng, or a tale that should only end in the corridors of some inept municipality in North West; it is your story. The helicopter that Moagi, albeit not registered with the Department of Trade & Industry as his intellectual property, is self-funded. A few weeks ago when I called to find out how his project was going, in his soft-spoken voice and the humility so disarming you could never imagine being angry at him, he said: ‘Rre, the project is going well. I am actually planning to visit Johannesburg in a few weeks’ time to fetch some of the parts I bought to continue with the project.’ Ladies and gentlemen, youth and pensioners, Moagi is celebrating his 35th year this very year walking the grounds of this earth, making him 9 years my senior. If there is anybody who should be showing deference and respect, it should be me; after all I should be calling him ‘buti’ (brother).
In a piece he prepared about himself, Moagi remarks that he dreams of travelling the world and showcase his talents. In his own words he writes thus: ‘My vision and dreams is to see myself in different countries abroad like United States of America or Germany… I would also like to share my skill and potential with others for skill development and also to showcase my talent to the world.’ It goes to prove that even in the deepest and most ‘backward’ of places as some would say, where talent lies undiscovered, boys and girls have dreams. Like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, he notes in one passage, he too has a dream.
During the year 1884 something phenomenal happened to the United States of America (USA): they welcomed as a citizen a dangerously gifted Electrical Engineer from Croatia. His name, Nikola Tesla. Despite his name, unlike many men and women of supreme intelligence, being not so popular in many circles, Tesla is a man responsible for the revolution of electricity as well as the research of radio and wireless technology that you and I enjoy today. And because of his scary intelligence and astounding, groundbreaking ideas he was nicknamed the ‘Mad Scientist’. Towards the end of his years Tesla was experimenting with transmitting electricity wirelessly. He died in 1943 in New York as an American. Today Croatia can only watch with regret and envy as the US benefits from the undeniable brilliance of its son, Nikola Tesla.
I mention this little fable above to warn you as a child of both South Africa and Africa: learn from history. Do not let the talents of Moagi and many like him to go to waste, only to be discovered by some country who will actually seem him for who he is: a genius. Kgotsong!