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Long live the spirit of QKJ Masire, long live!

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)
BCP Deputy Leader


As the country was trying to recover from the shock of losing Patrick Van Rensburg who was an education icon and revolutionary another educationist and political giant fell. To many Batswana the passing of former President Sir Quett Ketumile Jonnie Masire was untimely. This is because it was never in the public domain that he was sickly despite his advanced age. The timing of his death was quite unfortunate.

The country needed him most as we navigate through unchartered waters of excessive looting by those delegated to manage the country’s resources on behalf of citizens.  His voice of reason shall be missed. We still remember very vividly his parting shot over the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) captioned by a newspaper headline “You’re destroying our country.”  In the Setswana culture the word of the late former President Masire is the unwritten law which must be respected.

In 1965 Masire was a Member of the first Parliament at the age of 40 years. He was one of the youngest Members of Parliament. At the age of 41 years Sir Ketumile became the first Vice President of the Republic of Botswana and the first Minister responsible for economic planning which was later re-named Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).  When he assumed the office of president of Botswana in 1980 Masire was 55 years.

It is worth noting that there are three remaining political veterans who were in the first parliament in 1966. These are Orbert Chilume from Nkange, Kenneth Nkhwa in the North East and Gaerolwe Kwerepe from Ngamiland. The transition from Seretse Khama to Masire was a historical milestone. This is because he was taking over from a charismatic leader who was admired and highly respected as the father of modern day Botswana.

Coming from the royal family of Bamangwato ethnic group had a significant contribution to Seretse Khama’s popularity.  On the other hand Masire was a commoner from Gangwaketsi.  At the time of Khama’s demise Batswana were still rooted in the traditional Bogosi system of governance. Obviously there was anxiety about the future of Botswana under the leadership of a commoner. 

Within no time it was clear that under Sir Ketumile’s stewardship Botswana continued to enjoy peace and tranquillity. Multi-party democracy was consolidated and enriched during his time as President of the Republic of Botswana. He ran a truly inclusive system of democracy where the contribution of the opposition and those associated with it were recognized and highly appreciated. 

Under his leadership Botswana introduced a consultative institution called All-Party Conference (APC). It was a crucial forum that allowed political leaders to exchange ideas to nurture our democracy.  Rre Masire listened to all sections of the society irrespective of political affiliation. Hence the most transformative electoral reforms were introduced under Rre Masire. These include the introduction of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), external voting, and reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 years.

Masire was one of the few remaining founders of the Republic of Botswana. He contributed immensely in laying a solid foundation based on constitutionalism and the rule of law. At the time of Botswana’s attainment of independence from the British rule Southern Africa was predominantly ruled by white racist minority regimes and one-party independent states. However, the founding leaders in their wisdom broke ranks and introduced multi-party democracy, which earned Botswana the title of “a shining example of democracy”.

The founding leaders instilled tolerance in political discourse, a trait that sets Botswana miles apart from the rest of most African countries.  Today the relationship between politicians from the ruling party and the opposition is one between opponents and not enemies.   In fact Masire believed that every Motswana has the potential to be President of the Republic of Botswana.

Another feature of pre-independence Africa was the existence of independent ethnic groups. In a few African countries political conflicts were a result of divided nations along ethnic lines. It is against this background that Masire and the founding leaders of Botswana prioritized National Unity as one of the key national principles. Everything they pursued was meant to promote unity.  Hence Setswana was introduced as a national language at the exclusion of other languages to unite the people of Botswana.  Whether this was a wise move in the context of promotion of mother tongue as a medium of instruction is a debate for another day.


During the early days of Botswana another strategy used to unite the country was to strike a balance between the North and South. The result of this was that when a President comes from the North the position of Vice President should be occupied by someone from the South. Seretse Khama who originated from the North was deputized by Rre Masire from the South. When Masire became the Head of State in 1980 his Vice President was Lenyeletse Seretse from the North.


Another issue that divided some African countries often resulting in civil wars was ethnically biased distribution of national resources. For this reason the founding fathers decided that all natural resources and mineral rights belonged to the state to be shared equitably. Whether this has been satisfactorily accomplished is a matter for another time.  


Sir Ketumile used to say that their intention was to set high standards for the rest to follow. As Minister of Finance he ushered in the first balanced budget in 1973 followed by budget surpluses in subsequent years. Hence Botswana received accolades on account of financial prudence. It may be argued that budget surpluses were a result of poor implementation which remained a challenge for decades. Part of the reason for a surplus budget could be attributable to the conservative budgetary approach adopted by MFDP under the leadership of Masire.


 Under his charge Botswana successfully introduced the Botswana currency in 1976 replacing the South African Rand. Prior to the Rand, pre-independence Botswana or Bechuanaland as it was called was using the British Pound.  It is for this reason that Seretse Khama used the occasion of 1969 dissolution of parliament to shower Rre Masire with praises for doing a sterling job in managing the national coffers.


It was not all smooth sailing for Rre Masire as he faced many challenges during his long service to the nation. Due to limited space one can only enumerate a few examples. One of the early tests to his leadership and negotiation skills was the violent strike at BCL Mine in Selibe Phikwe. He had been despatched by President Seretse Khama on a mission to deal with the crisis that entailed addressing an angry crowd of striking BCL Mine workers.


There were physical threats to Vice President Masire which angered President Seretse Khama. It would later emerge that had Seretse Khama been the one who had gone to Selibe Phikwe the state security forces would have been unleashed to disperse the striking miners by force.  If this had happened there was bound to be casualties. Frequent cross border attacks by South African security forces killing innocent citizens and South African refugees gave Rre Masire sleepless nights.


The Sedudu crisis brought Botswana and Namibia close to military confrontation. Rre Masire was at the centre of ensuring that the crisis was peacefully defused. I cannot imagine what the country and the sub-region would have gone through had the crisis happened during today’s trigger happy and erratic political leadership. Political icons like Sir Ketumile Masire, Kgalemang Motsete, Philip Matente, Motsamai Mpho and Kenneth Koma deserve national monuments to honour them for their huge contribution to peace and tranquillity which we all enjoy today.  There is no doubt that these were true patriots.

Long Live The Spirit of Sir Ketumile Masire, Long Live!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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