The community of Maun have been rocked by the sudden death of one of their own.
A popular figure and well known retired businessman in the tourist town, 66-year-old Sipho Ndaba was found dead in the bush last Tuesday, just days after returning home from visiting his daughter in America.
It is suspected Ndaba, who will be laid to rest this weekend, may have been suffering from dementia and got lost while trying to make his way home.
Ndaba, along with his now ex-wife, Nelly Ndaba, was one half of Maun’s famous couple who ran Caltex filling station at Boseja ward.
They eventually sold the business and divorced in 2011, with Nelly later relocating to the States with their two children.
Speaking to The Voice, Nelly’s sister, Ndibo Mosimanegape, revealed Ndaba landed at Maun International Airport last Friday (2nd September) but never made it home.
She explained he had been in the US at the invitation of his daughter, Audrey Ndaba, who had sought medical assistance for him.
“Upon his return, one of MmaNdaba’s employees went to pick Ndaba up from the airport. She had asked the employee to go and stay with Ndaba at their house so that she could help him with his medication and general welfare as he was not well,” said Mosimanegape.
However, as they made their way back, it appears the employee stopped off at her own house to collect her bags.
As soon as she got out of the car, Ndaba is said to have moved into the driver’s seat, telling her he would come back for her before zooming off.
The following day, when Ndaba had still not shown up, she informed the family.
“She reported on Saturday morning and we started looking for him with hope that he would come back. On Sunday, that is when we filed a missing person report and continued our search, checking local hospitals and health centres as we feared for his health as he was diabetic,” revealed Mosimanegape.
The same day, Ndaba’s daughter, Audrey Ndaba, posted a desperate plea for help on Facebook.
“Hi everyone. It’s unfortunate I have to make this post but my father has been missing for 3 days. He is not well and probably is unaware of his surroundings. A missing persons report has been filed with Maun Police. I kindly ask that you keep a lookout for him or the car he was last seen in. His name is Sipho Ndaba,” she wrote, leaving contact details as well as a picture of her father and the vehicle.
Mosimanegape says the social media post helped them track down the car, which was located at around 8pm Monday evening between Shorobe and Mawana gate.
“Ndaba was nowhere to be found but all his luggage he brought from the US was in the car,” she told The Voice.
“The police arrived around 11 so we searched but, as it was late, we went back to Maun. The following morning a search party was dispatched including a police helicopter. We don’t know whether the car stopped because it ran out of fuel or what, but it appears when he got out he walked ahead, then returned and circled the car and then moved backwards and along elephant tracks,” continued Mosimanegape.
Although she was not part of the search, Mosimanegape said she went to the mortuary to confirm the body was Ndaba’s.
“We cannot say we suspect foul play because the body appeared not to have any obvious injuries. Our suspicion is that he could have died from exhaustion as he had walked a long distance on the tracks. He was a good man who was loved by people and his passing came as a shock to all of us.”
Confirming the search had ended in tragedy, US-based Audrey wrote on Facebook, “I would like to sincerely thank everyone who helped towards the efforts to find our father, Mr Ndaba. Your thoughts prayers and leads undoubtedly went a long way in locating him. Unfortunately he passed away. Please keep our family in prayer. It goes without saying Mr Ndabz lived a full life. We are thankful for all the great and funny memories we have of him. His sense of humour in unmatched. Go lokile, it is well.”
Continuing the tributes to the deceased, a family friend, James Evans, who has known Ndaba over four decades, and is the current Chairperson of Business Botswana, expressed his devastation at the loss of a humble but brilliant soul.
“He was more than a friend to me, but family. Our children grew up together and attended the same schools. He used to stand in for me to chair Business Botswana meetings on my behalf; we used to laugh together.”