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Farewell to Mr John Tsebe
Like other summer days, it was bright and warm in Pretoria on 18 February 2014. The day was like any other ordinary day to the entire staff of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), except for one person. For the National Librarian and Chief Executive Officer, Mr John Kgwale Tsebe, it was a very special day where he had to bid goodbye to his colleagues in the library fraternity.

The auditorium of the NLSA Pretoria campus was packed to capacity with colleagues, friends, family and stakeholders who could not hide the pride of their association with Mr Tsebe, or John, as he is affectionately known to everyone. Amongst the praises piled on John were from the NLSA chairperson of the board, Ms Ellen Tise; chairperson of the NLSA previous board, Prof. Muxe Nkondo; DAC's Mr Puleng Kekana; NCLIS Mr Tommy Matthee; chairperson of the Committee of Higher Education Librarians of South Africa (CHELSA), Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata; South African Book Development Council’s Ms Elitha van der Sandt; CEO Forum´s Mr Makgolo Makgolo; LIASA’s Mr Mandla Ntombela and Ms Rachel More, Deputy National Librarian. The event also featured the sizzling poets Natalia Molebatsi, Portia Sindane and Lucas Mmalefahlo.

Cape Town staff and special guests too had the opportunity to say good-bye to John at a lunch held at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town on 21 February. Warm congratulatory and farewell messages came from Ms Ellen Tise, who spoke on behalf of the NLSA Board and Ms Tanya Barben, on behalf of the Friends of the NLSA. Ms Najwa Hendricks, on behalf of management, and Mr Leonard Benjamin, on behalf of staff, spoke with great fondness of their years of working with John. A delightful video produced by Ms Sue-Adrie Jefthas had the audience glued to the television screen. Ms Nelisa Lunika composed and presented an ode to John Tsebe, to much applause. The Cape Town NLSA staff choir impressed everybody with their beautiful voices. The Buyelekhaya Community Group’s vigorous traditional dancing provided further entertainment. Mr Mandla Matyumza’s vote of thanks was the perfect conclusion to an event that will long be remembered. So too will the delicious cakes baked by staff members!

John was appointed as National Librarian of the NLSA in March 2004, and over the past ten years contributed immensely to the many achievements and accomplishments of the NLSA. Of note, the new building which houses the state of the art Pretoria campus, the introduction of numerous new services including free Internet access to the public, the digitisation of the library’s invaluable collections and those of other institutions, the de-acidification plant, the only one of its kind in Africa, and many highly successful projects in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) under the conditional grant for provincial public libraries.

John’s departure from the NLSA was greeted with mixed feelings, as a time to reflect back with pride on his immense contributions to the library sector, both nationally and internationally, and sadness as his leadership skills, guidance and presence will be missed. He will now have enough time for leisure and his family.

Click here to view SABC TV Morning Live interview with Mr John Tsebe conducted on 19 January 2014.

Anita Shaw and Muponisi Nkuna



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