It was a love for the martial arts movie he watched as a child that motivated his decision to study film and television production down the line.
This undefeated five-time Africa karate champion started lifting Botswana’s flag high at a tender age, but today Thabiso Maretlwaneng is best known for his contribution to Botswana’s film and television industry.
Maretlwaneng most recently won the African Achievers Award 2015 for ‘Excellence in Film and TV in Africa’. This honour was previously bestowed on great icons like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Malawian president Joyce Banda.
Maretlwaneng was also recently involved in Hollywood’s A United Kingdom — a film due to premiere in 2016, based on the romance between Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams.
Thanks to his outstanding performance as a national karate champion, Maretlwaneng earned a scholarship to study at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film and television.
During his time overseas he excelled in both arenas. Maretlwaneng won a Silver Medal in the under-60kg men’s individual kumite at the Asia Pacific Karate Championships in Malaysia.
As a film student, he produced the ac- claimed feature-length documentary film Head Up. The documentary follows the journey of young black refugees who settle in Australia and struggle to break into the country’s commercial music industry.
The controversial documentary earned Maretlwaneng a distinction from his university. He was the first student to graduate in Australia with both a feature-length project and a black hip-hop feature documentary. Head Up also won an award at the New York International Film Festival in 2009.
After working on Botswana’s first international film, The No. 1 Ladies Detective, Maretlwaneng founded Dee Zone Productions in 2008. The production company, assisted in 2009 by Botswana’s Youth Development Fund, now employs 50 young people.
Dee Zone Productions has changed the country’s television landscape by hosting a variety of new productions on Botswana TV. These include Maretlwaneng’s own 52-episode TV drama, Ntwagolo, which he wrote and produced, that addresses issues surrounding HIV. He also has produced a 26-episode drama, Pelokgale, that tackles gender-based violence.
Maretlwaneng and Dee Zone Productions are further known for Pula Power, a youth lifestyle program that showcases Botswana’s talent across Africa, as well as the popular Good Morning Africa on DSTV.