The Story of Martin
THIS IS HOW IT STARTED
THE STORY OF MARTIN
Martin Mtembu was one of the finest ranger trainers the continent of Africa has ever seen. Born into an apartheid South Africa, Martin grew up with few opportunities. He was the oldest of his siblings and after his father passed away, Martin took over the responsibility of caring for his family. He served in the South African military, which was one of the few options black South Africans had during the apartheid regime. During this time Martin learned incredible leadership, communication and language skills which allowed him to advance quickly through the ranks. After leaving the military, Martin was recruited into the Kwa-Zulu Natal Parks board of South Africa, where he used his military background to train local South Africans in the skills needed to protect their national heritage. During his time as a field ranger trainer, Martin trained over 10,000 rangers throughout some of the most dangerous parks in Africa including Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, Congo and Kenya.
Throughout all of this training, Martin often returned to train rangers to the Southern African Wildlife College next to Kruger National Park, South Africa. This is where Martin and I crossed paths for the first time. I remember the first time meeting him was in a crowded cafeteria filled with rangers from all over the continent of Africa. Even amongst the hustle and bustle of hungry rangers, it was clear who commanded the respect of the troops. Sitting at the instructor’s table, Martin was continuously greeted by rangers from many countries who had met him years ago or simply wanted to meet the legend. Sensing this was a man I needed to meet, I walked over to him and introduced myself. Martin graciously and kindly asked me to join him at his instructor’s table. I cannot recall the words or conversation very clearly, but I remember the way he treated me with kindness, attention, and respect.
Over the next 6 years, Martin taught me everything from how to be a good trainer, to a good leader, to a good listener and a good friend. On numerous occasions, he saved my life (twice from lions and once from a black mamba). These stories can be found.
However, the most important lesson I taught from Martin was the value and principle of inclusion. Martin believed that the continued existence of wildlife rested with African communities having a stake in their protection and promotion. Mr. Mtembu did not see color and treated every single person with respect, kindness, and compassion (unless they crossed a very defined line). Martin gave hope to rural African communities, to young impoverished youth who had no hope, to old tenured rangers who forgot why they were fighting, to people of all races and backgrounds, and to a world who had forgotten about our commitment to protecting what we hold dear to our hearts.
Martin was a friend, a mentor, a father, a husband, an example and a leader. GCC’s mission is rooted in what Martin lived and died for. The legend lives on.