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Dikgosi remember Sir Seretse Khama

27 Jun 2023

To some, a president is a feared man who even his shoe size is a closely guarded secret; a man that even a fly would dare not perch on his jacket.

However, this stereotype does not fit Botswana’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama.

Revered because he was born a heir of the Khama dynasty, songs were written about him and poets spoke of his greatness, but he never lost his characteristic common man’s touch. BOPA had a chat with dikgosi from different villages, about how they remember Sir Seretse.

Kgosi Sechele Kgari III of Mokwena Ward in Serowe, describes him as a visionary, open, reasonable and down to earth servant-leader. Kgosi Kgari should know better because his father the late Bakwena Kgari was not only Sir Seretse’s close friend, but served in his cabinet as well.

He remembers that the two were inseparable and President Khama often visited their house, to spend time with his friend and family.

“Death robbed the nation of a great leader who still had a lot to offer.  When President Khama spoke, he commanded respect without demanding it. You could tell that you were in the presence of a statesman,” Kgosi Kgari says.

Apart from taking politics home, the two whiled away time playing football. “President Khama played forward and was affectionately known as Starky,” says Kgosi Kgari.

In Maun, Kgosi Charles Letsholathebe remembers one political rally President Khama addressed in the village, next to Thamalakane River, where he shared his vision for the party he cofounded and led, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

“He was a self-made politician, a rare breed of an African leader who loved his people dearly and yearned to see them live dignified lives. He will forever be remembered by many, especially those who had the opportunity to interact with him,” says Kgosi Letsholathebe.

He also remembers how President Khama treasured consultation between government and the country’s different communities and never tired of reaching out to Batswana wherever they were, to engage with them.

He says the nation building project was important because before independence tribal identity was strong, and Sir Seretse and his colleagues found a creative way to accommodate traditional leadership within a new democratic dispensation. Kgosi Kgomokgwana credits President Khama for moulding the nation of Botswana into what it is today – united, peaceful and democratic.

“President Seretse was unmatched and in a league of his own,” he says. A former member of President Khams’s ceremonial guards, Kgosi Moitshepi Molelwa of Gumare speaks highly of the founding president’s kindness.

His first encounter with Sir Seretse was before independence, when he was a learner in Shakawe.

When the time came to look for a job, he joined the post-independence Botswana Police Service, and that was how he later became part of the presidential escort team, a task they did mainly on horseback. 

“Even after his passing, I was part of the team that ceremonially guarded his coffin when people came to pay their last respects inside Parliament,” says Kgosi Molelwa.

Kgosi Mothubakgang Madibela of Madimabe Ward in Chadibe will forever respect for his firm stand against tribalism, and how he managed to unite Batswana to view themselves as one.

He recalls that each time President Khama visited Borotsi, a nearby village he liked to holiday in, he sent a message to the people in Chadibe that he was around so that they could visit him. The last time Kgosi Shathani Kgakanyane of Sebina saw Sir Seretse was around 1972 or 1973 when she worked in Gaborone.

At the time, she says her grandfather, the late Kgosi Majaga Kgakanyane Sebina was the kgosi and back then, the village was called BB1 and was the main kgotla of Bakalanga where official gatherings took place. She remembers that Bangwato who moved from Serowe were allocated land where the current new post office plot is in Sebina.

During that time, there were petrol tanks that were used by Bangwato when they were settling in the village and also by president Khama during his visits. The tanks she says are still there, by the main kgotla.

She says Bangwato also built grain storage (disigo) and even though they are no longer being used, they are a significant heritage of the village.

For Kgosi David Toto II of Tsabong, when Botswana gained independence in 1966 he was 10 years. He remembers joyful celebrations that went on for a week. “There were festivities with ample food all over,” says Kgosi Toto.

Soon after independence he says they were taught the national anthem at school. He also remembers the time President Khama came to Tsabong in an airplane from Namibia. Seeing an aeroplane at close range was an unusual sight, and the curious villagers thronged around it.

Kgosi Barutshi Kegapetswe of Letlhakane, who has been serving since 1979 and knew President Khama well, describes him as a good orator who had a good command of language.The first meeting at which Sir Seretse addressed people of Letlhakane and surrounding areas, Kgosi Kegapetswe says was somewhere in the outskirts popularly known as Sediba sa ga Kadimo, between Orapa and Letlhakane where he talked about impending developments such as the diamond mine that would soon start operations in Orapa. 

“The meeting attracted a large number of people though the venue was far. The man was just loved by people,” says Kgosi Kegapetswe.  ENDS


Source : BOPA

Author : BOPA

Location : BOPA


Date : 27 Jun 2023