Ernest Sedumedi Moloto was the son of peasant farmers. He received his primary education at Moruleng and Mabieskraal, both in the Rustenburg district. In 1931 he entered the Stofberg Gedenkskool (Stofberg Memorial School) of the Dutch Reformed Church near Viljoensdrift in the Orange Free State, where he completed his Junior Certificate. He matriculated in 1938 and then enrolled at the South African Native College (University of Fort Hare) for a BA degree. However, his studies were interrupted when Chief Ofentse Pilane requested him to start a secondary school for his tribe at Moruleng and become its first principal.
Moloto completed his BA degree in 1942 and in the following year the University Education Diploma (UED). Through private study he obtained a BA (Hons) degree in African Languages in 1962, followed by an MA degree in 1964 and a doctorate (for a dissertation entitled The growth and tendencies of Tswana poetry) in 1970 – all qualifications from the University of South Africa. In 1974 he also read linguisÂtics at the University of Essex in England and obtained a certificate in Applied Linguistics and the Teaching of English cum laude.
His teaching career started in the Orange Free State in 1935. He was the founder principal of the Ofentse Tribal School at Moruleng. He was promoted to the rank of supervisor of schools in the Potchefstroom circuit in 1957. In I960 he was seconded as lecturer in Tswana, Southern and Northern Sotho to the newly established University College of the North (Turfloop) near Pietersburg.
However, in 1961 he returned to the Potchefstroom circuit as sub-inspector and later inspector of schools. In the latter capacity he served the Western Transvaal from Krugersdorp in the east to Supingstad near Gaborone in Botswana, a vast area covering the Potchefstroom and Lichtenburg circuits. His next appointment was that of first chief planner for the Tswana Territorial Authority (forerunner of the Bophuthatswana government service). He subsequently served as Professor and Head of Department of African Languages at the University of Botswana in Gaborone. Later he held the same position at Vista University, and was based at the Mamelodi Campus in Pretoria.
Moloto was not only a devoted teacher and a lover of his language and culture, but inspired many youngsters to take up leadership positions in the service of particularly the rural and tribal people. He was an excellent linguist and spoke Setswana, his mother tongue, English, Afrikaans and Dutch equally fluently.
From 1961 to 1973 he compiled the Bophuthatswana Hansard, which produced the 1972 standard orthography, in Setswana, Afrikaans and English. He served as Chairman of both the Tswana Language Committee of South Africa and the Botswana National Language Committee, which produced the 1980 standard orthography. At one time he served as General Secretary of the Transvaal African Teachers' Union (TATU), thereby maintaining a lively contact with African teachers throughout the Transvaal. He conÂtributed several articles for publication in the official journal of the union, TUATA, and he was a regular contributor to the Bantu Education Journal, LIMI, Educamus (RSA) and Pula (Botswana).
Moloto did not intend to go abroad until he had reached the highest niche in this country - always saying he would not like to go overseas as a 'museum piece', his own words. For that reason, his first visit abroad was after acquiring a DLitt et Phil from Unisa.
He was married three times, the first two marriages ending in divorce. His first wife was Ellen Merafe (today Kuzwayo) and they had two sons. Edna Morwadi Tsheole was his second wife and they had a son. He then married Lydia Kitty Dikgale. This marriage was without issue. Moloto was buried at Moruleng, Rustenburg on 10 June 1984.