I consider myself fortunate to have had a father, the late Nkatswa Ditshego, who introduced me to politics at the tender age of ten when Botswana gained its independence led by Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first President. In 1966, my father attended Botswana’s independence celebrations since he was from Botswana and brought with him a publication which contained Sir Seretse Khama’s independence speech. In subsequent years he received The Daily News, especially the ones with Sir Seretse Khama’s independence speeches. He would read them to me and explained so I could understand. My dad also spoke highly of Dr Kenneth Koma at that time. Little did I realize that ten years down the line I would be in exile in Botswana and ultimately met Dr Koma himself in 1981 in Lobatse.
In December 1976 I listened to Sir Seretse Khama’s Christmas Day speech on Radio Botswana. I don’t remember hearing Sir Seretse Khama’s voice from the South African Broadcasting Corporation until I left for exile in November 1976. It was exciting for me to listen to a live broadcast of a President whose speeches my dad could only read out to me. Sir Seretse was articulate and eloquent in both Setswana and English just like the late Dr Koma.
On the 1st July Batswana celebrated Sir Seretse Khama’s birthday, a well deserved one. Were he alive today he would be 94 years old. The 13th July will mark the 35th anniversary of the death of Sir Seretse Khama. When it was announced that Sir Seretse Khama had passed away I was in Botswana. The news of his death cast a pall over the country even among the exile community. Two Presidents succeeded him during our time in exile, Sir Ketumile Joni Masire and Festus Mogae but none was loved, admired and respected more than the one whom we came to know as Tautona.
Under Tautona we felt safe because of the ideals he cherished of equality before the law and universal human rights. He refused to accept the stigmatisation from some locals which was engendered by some of the wayward behavior, real or perceived, of our comrades. Sir Seretse Khama was the embodiment of the true human spirit, generosity and compassion. After his death several exiles were deported to South Africa at the behest of his protégé’, Daniel Kwelagobe who seemed to have lack Sir Seretse Khama’s compassion.
He treated all liberation movements equally just like Julius Mwalimu Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania. Meanwhile leaders of some frontline states such as Mozambique and Angola gave sanctuary only to the ANC to the exclusion of the PAC and Black Consciousness Movement. Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia expelled ZANU and the PAC after the assassination by a car bomb of Herbert Chitepo, Robert Mugabe’s predecessor. These states adopted hook, line and sinker Moscow’s bizarre stance of regarding the ANC as the sole and legitimate representatives of the oppressed people of South Africa.
I wonder how many people feel as safe today as they felt under Sir Seretse Khama’s time. When I am in Botswana I always buy quite a few newspapers and bring them to South Africa with me to read at home. A few weeks back I was in Botswana and bought some newspapers. Almost all of the major ones had front-page stories About Isaac Kgosi and the DIS. Those stories were not complimentary of the man and reminded me of a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that was said in a conversation between Brutus and Cassius which reads, “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishounarable graves. Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”.
During Sir Seretse Khama’s time, nobody died the way John Kalafatis did and those who caused his death would not have gotten scot free and went back to their jobs in the civil service. That is inconceivable. None of Sir Seretse Khama’s adversaries died the way Gomolemo Motswaledi did. I am not suggesting foul play. However, the manner in which he died has the hallmarks of an assassination.
Sir Seretse Khama mentored many youngsters to him and allowed them to grow. He would have welcomed and encouraged the growth and intellectual development of dynamic youngsters such as Motswaledi, Duma Boko, Dumelang Saleshando and many others without feeling threatened by their intellect and dynamism. He had one of the most erudite and formidable adversaries in Dr Koma but he never thought of eliminating him. Dr Koma in fact outlived Sir Seretse Khama. Instead he wooed him with lucrative and enticing positions which Dr Koma politely declined citing ideological differences.
What clearly came first to Sir Seretse Khama was Botswana and her people. He didn’t close ranks like we see with other leaders on the continent and around the world. There were rumours that when some of his Cabinet Ministers engaged in corrupt practices, he would call a cabinet meeting and raise his concerns. Thereafter he would invite former BPP leader and MP, the late Phillip Matante to the State House and reveal to Mr. Matante the blunders of some of his Cabinet Ministers in order for Mr. Matante to raise them in Parliament. It would not be apparent that it was Sir Seretse Khama who leaked the information since it was discussed in a Cabinet meeting and could have been leaked by any of the members who attended the Cabinet meeting.
He lived ahead of his time. He was also a Pan Africanist as demonstrated in his role in the formation of the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC), SADC’s predecessor as well as his keen participation in Organisation of African Unity summits. I read that he was against Botswana being used as a springboard for attacks against her neighbours. This policy was for public consumption and to avoid the wrath of the white minority regimes of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South West Africa (now Namibia) and Apartheid South Africa which hasn’t changed its colonial and Apartheid name to Azania. APLA and MK operated from Botswana. Botswana contributed a lot in the liberation of South Africa because of Sir Seretse Khama.
Today the West and some white South Africans who are beneficiaries of Nelson Mandela’s sellout largesse want the world to forget about heroes like Sir Seretse Khama and canonize only Mandela. I will never be party to that gigantic fraud. The West and white South Africans will never choose heroes for me. They oppressed us and now they want to tell us who our heroes are. Mandela is a victim of the mellowing influences of long years of incarceration which made him to capitulate and accept unacceptable conditions to secure his release from Robben Island in 1981.
Moreover, there are two books MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations by Stephen Dorril and The Big Breach by Richard Tomlinson which reveal that Mandela was an MI6 agent. Sir Seretse Khama was exiled to Britain between 1947 and 1956 because of his marriage to Lady K but never considered to be an agent for any foreign intelligence agency.
On Sir Seretse Khama’s marriage, the Western and white South African media mainly reported about Tshekedi Khama’s objection to the marriage. For the benefit of this publication’s international readers, King Tshekedi was Sir Seretse Khama’s paternal uncle and regent. The Western and white South African media never reported about the hate mail some white people all over the world sent to Lady K’s mother objecting to Seretse Khama’s marriage to Ruth Williams.
Khama was a loving husband, one to emulate. Tales in David James Smith’s book, Young Mandela of the treatment Mandela meted out to his first wife Mama Evelyn do not portray him as an exemplary leader who should be hero-worshipped and emulated the way the West and white South Africans want us to deify Mandela to the exclusion of exemplary leaders like Robert Sobukwe and Sir Seretse Khama. The United Nations, the ANC, the West and some white South Africans want to turn into a public holiday July 18, which is Mandela’s birthday. To them the scars of abuse of Mama Evelyn do not matter because she was an African woman. I wonder how they would react if she had been European or white.
It is heroes like Seretse Khama whose legacy should be celebrated and not people who worked for foreign spy agencies and were women abusers.
Let us always remember Seretse Khama and heroes like him.