Connect with us

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.”

Continue Reading


The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

Continue Reading


A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

Continue Reading


Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!