Masilo Matseke
JOHANNESBURG - In the many times that we have interacted, there has always been one thing that stood out.

It is like “that thing”, in the words of one Hlaudi Motsoeneng, that you have. I remember meeting you for the first time on board an SAA flight to New York many years ago. It was an unlikely chance meeting where you needed an adapter to charge your laptop while you worked.

We then spoke afterwards about what you did and what I did, when I was not working on board. Subsequent to that, we met again, a few months later, again en route to JFK. That time, our dinner meeting materialised.

We walked to a Turkish restaurant in the chill of the city and enjoyed a hearty meal. You picked my mind and interrogated my thoughts. Little did I know that was like an interview.

A few days later, on your return to your office, we met with the team you had put together. What I did not mention to you was that on that day, I had an interview set up in Randburg at 2pm. Our meeting started at 8am sharp. In my mind, we would have been done by the latest 1pm, and I would then rush to my interview for a Sports Presenter job for SuperSport. By 5pm, I was still in your office. Needless to say, my prospects of being on television were crushed by the engulfing energy that was present. There was so much intellectual possibility. I was hooked! And that was the start of my journey with Stats SA (albeit a short, but fulfilling one).

“That thing”, I referred to earlier, gave me a natural boost to do better. I knew that mediocrity could never be associated with you. Clear in your thoughts, once you had given direction, you expected results. I remember that one day we had a meeting and we asked for your opinion about our project. Your response was breaking, yet empowering at the same time. You said: “I don’t know, you must tell me!”

I knew then that I had to come with solutions, and not bring questions. One of the many lessons I learnt, quietly watching.

While working in your office, I got to meet “Chief”, Mr Risenga Maluleke. What you wrote about him in the Business Report dated October 24, 2017 warmed my heart and brought back fond memories. What stood out for me in the article (apart from the intellectual mass), was that he was no “pushover”. The level of respect he commanded was apparent, as one walked past his office.

I cannot think of a more deserving DDG to succeed you. I know without doubt that he will do you proud.

Ntate, what you have done for Stats SA, and the country at large, is beyond words (I thought long and hard about what word would best describe what you have done, and every time I thought of a word, it was not sufficient).

I hope my description will do. In so saying, I would like to thank you. I was in your space for about two years, so I can only imagine what wealth of knowledge you have imparted to the team. I thank you for the opportunity and the exposure you afforded me. Working for Stats SA was a highlight of my career, because I met a great man in you.

I would like to wish you well in whatever turn your life will take. I am certain you will have a well deserved rest now and then.

Please know that you have influenced me to make a positive difference in whatever I choose to do. I wish to meet with you again, and again, so I can draw inspiration from you and learn what universities cannot teach.

“That thing” in my mind is power, intellect, inspiration, knowledge, vision, smartness, and a hair style of note!

I wish to hear from you sometime in the near future. I wish you well.

Masilo Matseke works for South African Airways (SAA) and has had interactions with Statistician-General Pali Lehohla, whose term after 17 years officially ends this week.