Batswana were on Thursday morning glued to their television sets as they followed proceedings to mark the 100th birthday of Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana.
Thousands of people would have loved to travel to the country’s capital city, Gaborone, where the main event was held but could not do so due to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed to contain the rising cases of the pandemic.
“My wish was to go to Gaborone and join the celebrations but COVID-19 has restricted me to watch the proceedings on television,” said 35-year-old Mothusi Onneile, a resident of Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city.
Onneile said he wanted to make the journey to view elaborate flower displays at the statue of the late president at the front of the country’s parliament buildings and candle lighting ceremony in honor of him.
Khama, who was born on July 1, 1921 at Serowe village, situated 370km in north-central Botswana, has been described by many as an “extraordinary man of great mind who willed to charter unchartered territories”.
“Today, we are celebrating the centenary of a remarkable and outstanding man who was also the founding father and the first President of Botswana — Sir Seretse Khama,” said President Mokgweetsi Masisi in Gaborone in his address on the commemoration of the centenary of Khama.
Botswana gained Independence from Britain in 1966.
While describing Khama as an embodiment of democracy, unity, non-racism and development, President Masisi said Khama remains one of Africa’s greatest icons, a Pan-Africanist in his own right and a man of his world who took concrete steps to actualise the ideals he professed.
“Let me thank the people of Serowe, for lending Botswana such a legend and a visionary statesman who made a formidable contribution to the success that Botswana is today and the development of Africa especially Southern Africa,” he said
President Masisi said Seretse, as his name suggested – “the clay that binds together” – was an embodiment of democracy, unity, non-racism and development.
He said he was a constitutional republican and a democrat who pioneered inclusive politics, and who out rightly rejected one party state system and monarchical rule.
“The four celebrated national values of Democracy, Development, Self- Reliance and Unity, which our first president championed with vigour and tenacity, have carried us through good and bad seasons. These are the values premised on our Setswana culture that have delivered the sound socio- economic development, political stability, peace and unity that Botswana is known for globally,” President Masisi added
Former President Festus Mogae said Khama became synonymous with the bedrock of Botswana, celebrated homogeneity and sustained democracy over the years. He said what he remembers most about him was that he was a genuine democrat.“He was a very consultative leader who never wished to have his way alone, but always sought the views of the collective, before taking any position. It did not matter to him that he was President, but mattered most that he was neither infallible nor possessed the monopoly of knowledge on any issues. His open-minded outlook transcended the person to constitute one of the fundamental ethos of his leadership,” said Mr Mogae. –Xinhua/The Voice