The Mapai Episode

Dale Collett was an Officer in the Selous Scouts and decorated with the Silver Cross for ‘Conspicuous Gallantry and Leadership in Action.’ This was Rhodesia’s second highest award for bravery.

In June 1976 the Scouts raided the FRELIMO base in Mapai, Mozambique. Collett single-handedly charged up a staircase of an enemy building to attack the barricaded occupants. He was shot in the spine and paralysed from the chest down. A couple of minutes later Tim Bax, Bruce Fitzsimmons and Jannie Nel hurtled up the same stairs to finish the job. More bursts of fire and Nel was hit. The other two assisted him and retreated down the stairs. Sadly, he was dead before they got to the bottom. Now Bax warily went up alone. Moving very cautiously along a passageway, a volley of AK rounds shattered his legs. Falling into an empty room, he managed to alert the attention of his men below as to the nature of his very severe wounds. Piet van der Riet organised a mattress and Tim managed to haul himself over the lip of the balcony before he lost consciousness and collapsed onto the bedding.

The story above is merely a summary of the action. However the point is that all of them went above the call of duty and led by EXAMPLE. They each showed a considerable degree of courage and self-sacrifice. In doing so they earned the ultimate admiration of others. Respect comes from setting an example.

 

Back to Dale Collett. Confined to a wheelchair, his disability has never deterred him from simply getting on with his life with vigour, enthusiasm and complete confidence. Living in Botswana, he has built up his own business employing disabled local citizens, and developed a small farm from scratch in the raw bush. This included erecting the farm-house, outbuildings, animal pens and drilling boreholes.

 

Over time Dale has had numerous operations in an endeavour to counter the side effects of paralysis and pressure sores. In 2011, whilst renovating a building on his property, the roof collapsed on top of him and the resultant injury called for the amputation of his left leg. He subsequently suffered a shoulder injury which, despite surgery, could not be repaired. Nevertheless, he has been an absolute inspiration to anybody who has ever met him. Not just content to run a business and a farm, Collett has also advanced into the motivational speaking industry with the theme “Nothing is Impossible”. Knowing him as I do, it is difficult to describe the boundless energy, enthusiasm and that booming voice – always one push of his wheelchair ahead of you.

He recently acquired an ancient 750cc motor-bike with sidecar. Fitted with a platform over the seat so he can ride lying down, his comment, 36 years after the shooting was, “62 years old, running at top speed and improving.” A press release in April 2014 reported, “An elderly one legged paraplegic has successfully ridden a vintage motorcycle the 1548 kilometres from Botswana to Cape Town, lying on his stomach. Despite the extent of the physical ordeal, his focus remained on the reason for the challenge – to gain sponsorship for the kids supported by the Ray of Hope Foundation in Gaborone.” In his sidecar Dale carried everything required – wheelchair, fuel, spares, tools, clothing and rations. He intended to sleep on his bike but at each stop, hospitable citizens put him up for the night. Four long days later the Harley Davidson Club escorted him into Cape Town to a thundering reception. Mission accomplished Dale then repeated the journey back to Gaborone.

The thought to ponder; here is a seriously disabled individual, who you would think needed the aid himself, and yet he is the one reaching out to terminally ill children – to give them some quality and comfort in life before they die. Dale Collett is one of those people who just seizes life and gets on with it, never expecting help from anybody. Rather he sets the example, and in so doing, encourages others to do likewise.

 

“You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself”  - Harvey S. Firestone

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