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Remembering the unwanted: Lady Ruth Khama(1923-2002)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

We continue with the series where we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted, made immense contributions to the legacy we will be celebrating this year. This week we discuss Lady Ruth Khama who passed away on 22nd May 2002 aged 78.

It is apposite that we start this discussion by giving a brief account of Lady Khama’s life. For this we express our indebtedness to the obituary entitled “Ruth Khama: Bride in 'a marriage of inconvenience'” written by Rupert Cornwell and published in The Independent newspaper on 30th May 2002 from which we shall quote extensively.

Lady Khama was born Ruth Williams in Meadowcourt Road, Eltham in south London on 9th December 1923. She was the daughter of George and Dorothy Williams. She was educated at Eltham Grammar School and then served as a Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force ( HYPERLINK "" o "Women's Auxiliary Air Force" WAAF) ambulance driver at various airfields in the south of England during the Second World War. After the war, she worked as a clerk for   Cuthbert Heath, a firm of Lloyd's of London.

In June 1947, at a dance at Nutford House organized by the London Missionary Society, her sister, Muriel,  introduced her to Seretse Khama, who was studying Law at Inner Temple in London after a year at Balliol College, Oxford. The couple were both fans of jazz music, particularly The Ink Spots, and quickly fell in love.

To some, the suggestion that Lady Khama was unwanted is absurd. Yet she was. The only difference with the people discussed hitherto in this series is that she was not unwanted by the government. Lady Khama’s ‘unwantedness’ is illuminated by the opposition her marriage to Seretse attracted.   

According to Cornwell, Ruth and Seretse’s plans to marry caused controversy with both the apartheid government of South Africa and the tribal elders in Bechuanaland.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia “…their marriage was described as "nauseating" by the then Prime Minister of South Africa, Daniel Malan, but as "one of the great love stories of the world" by the then President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere”.

Cornwell states further that “the least of their problems perhaps was racial prejudice on the part of the public in a colonialist Britain still unaccustomed to interracial marriages. In Seretse's native Bechuanaland, however, his BamaNgwato people were in uproar. Chief Tshekedi Khama, Seretse's uncle and guardian, tried to prevent the young heir throwing in his lot with a member of the race responsible for the subjugation of their nation.”

Cornwell continues to say “…the succession, his uncle believed, was in danger, and Tshekedi was furious. "You have been ruined by others, not by me," he said – and at the time a majority of the BamaNgwato undoubtedly agreed.” At another meeting, The Guardian newspaper reports, Tshekedi said “… I would hand over the leadership to Seretse, but ‘if he brings his white wife here, I will fight him to the death’.

So, Lady Khama was unwanted not only by Tshekedi, but also by his people and the South African government. The British government too intervened in an attempt to stop the marriage. Unfortunately, the Bishop of London, William Wand, would only permit a church wedding if the government agreed.

Against all odds Seretse and Ruth got married at Kensington Register Office in September 1948. But, this came with a price. According to The Guardian newspaper, “… Ruth was sacked from her job, and her father turned her out of the house.”

Seretse and Ruth returned to Bechuanaland, then a British protectorate, where Khama's uncle, Tshekedi Khama, was regent. After receiving popular support in Bechuanaland, Seretse was called to London in 1950 for discussions with British officials.

In an unexpected turn of events Seretse was prevented from returning home. He effectively lived as an exile in England from 1951, living in Croydon. Thankfully, popular support and protest continued in Bechuanaland, and the couple were permitted to return in 1956 after BaNgwato sent a telegram to Queen Elizabeth II.

However, upon his return Seretse renounced his throne, and became a cattle farmer in Serowe. However, in 1963 Seretse was restored to the chieftainship and in 1966, as leader of the Bechuanaland Democratic Party, he became the first president of Botswana when it gained independence.

But, this article is not about Seretse. It is about this extra-ordinary woman who, despite being initially unwanted by her husband’s people, lived in Botswana even after her husband’s death. No doubt, Lady Khama considered herself not only as a Motswana, but also as Mohumagadi Mma Kgosi.

Though it is reported that she never came to master Setswana, Lady Khama proved to be no racist. She embraced those who chastised her simply because of the colour of her skin. She loved Seretse who, though of royal blood, lived an ordinary life in London.

According to an article by Dr. Jeff Ramsay titled “A Life of Service- Lady Ruth Khama” published in the Sunday Standard’s edition of 20th August 2012 “…while in the WAAF, Lady Khama also reportedly encountered white racial prejudice directed against blacks when she took exception to the attitudes expressed by some of her colleagues towards West Indian ground crews. To her this was inconsistent with fighting the repugnant racial beliefs of the Nazis”.

Dr. Ramsay continues to say “…at the end of the war Lady Khama was shifted back to chauffer duties, driving senior staff officers and other VIPs for several months before her demobilisation at the end of 1946”.

Lady Khama, affectionately called “Lady K”, served Batswana not only as First Lady, but also as a community and charity worker. According to the Lady Khama Charitable Trust website “… she formed the inaugural Botswana Council of Women, which provided services for women and their children”.

The website also reports that in her role as First Lady, Lady Khama supported her husband in his role as Head of State as he set about building and running a new nation. Her passion for community service, however, never waned.

In 1968, under Lady Khama’s leadership and guidance, the Botswana Red Cross Society was enacted through an Act of Parliament, making it an independent organization.

Lady Khama was elected founding President, a position that she held until her death.

According to the Lady Khama Charitable Trust website, over her lifetime, Lady Khama made substantial contributions to civil society organizations in Botswana. “…She was founding and first President of the Child to Child Foundation, and set up the Lady Khama Christmas Charity Fund” says the website.

In a more personal capacity, the website reports, Lady Khama was a religious woman, and devoted her time and energy to the Anglican Church’s services for disadvantaged people in local communities.

Consequently, in 1971, in recognition of her contribution to the Botswana Red Cross Society, she was awarded the Red Cross Certificate of Distinguished Service. Posthumously, Lady Khama was further awarded the Red Cross Lifetime Membership in 2008.

Even after Seretse's death in 1980, she continued various charitable works – running women's clubs, acting as president of the Botswana Red Cross Society, and being involved with the Girl Guides movement and the SOS Children’s Villages.

Lady Khama is indeed a heroine who deserves a place in this country’s history. Dr. Ramsay said it all when he said “… something of the quality of her character is reflected in the core Red Cross principles she epitomised and espoused: humanity, impartiality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.”

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting


Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness


The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.


The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.


Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “” or visit

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “” or visit

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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