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Remembering Sir Ketumile Masire: one year on!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

About one year ago, on 22nd June 2017, former president Sir Ketumile Masire passed on. The nation mourned. The nation lamented and decried the fall of a democrat. While many Batswana’s heats were heavy, many consoled themselves with the knowledge that a democrat had rested.

Today, one year on, the life of this great soul that once walked our land is worth remembering. In their book, ‘The Hidden Injuries of Class’, Richard Sennett and Jonathon Cobb wrote: “character is expressed by loyalty, and mutual commitment, or through the pursuit of long term goals, or by the practice of delayed gratification for the sake of the future end.”

This, in my view, defines the person that Sir Ketumile Masire was. It would be remiss to ascribe the word ‘personality’ to the democrat that Masire was. His was character, not personality. His was charm, appeal, atmosphere, attractiveness, charisma, and oddity. His oddity, though, was neither quirk nor foible; it was neither idiosyncrasy nor eccentricity; it was neither twist nor kink. It was not tic either. It was a peculiarity rooted in incomparable humility.   

Rra Gaone, as he was affectionately called, led a life defined by loyalty. I remember with fondness when, in a programme aired on Botswana Television(Btv), one of his siblings, almost his age, referred to him as his father, recounting how he became a ‘father’ to them following the death of their parents at an early age. He said his care for them was like warmth itself.  His eyes glittered with happiness when he stated that when Mma Gaone joined the family after marrying Rra Gaone she became their ‘mother’. As a result, they have, though orphans, never felt they were orphans.

I remember that in the same Btv programme, Mma Gaone narrated Rra Gaone’s loyalty to her as a wife, stating that he treated her as an equal, respected her and consulted her in all matters that touched on their livelihood. He referred to him as ‘Rre’ almost as if he was more than a husband to her. A parent of some sought. Yet, she did not appear as though she had been subjugated. She did not regard herself as inferior to him. It was almost as though she regarded herself as an unequal equal; a subordinate superior; a wife cum daughter; but a wife cum mother too.

To Rra Gaone, respect for democracy did not mean that other life attributes should be compromised. His brother stated how Rra Gaone used to discipline them with love when they engaged in deviant behavior. Andrew Sesinyi, Rra Gaone’s former Chief of Protocol, has said ‘Rre Masire one ale bogale, mme one a loma a fodisa’, meaning that he was a disciplinarian, but also knew how to soothe people’s feelings after disciplining them.

If soothing means calming, pacifying, quieting, mollifying, appeasing and lulling then I agree with Sesinyi. This, as all Batswana know, he did through, inter alia, the dinyawe, i.e. jokes that have become his trade mark and have become a heritage for our people. One tribesman, a lot younger than Rra Gaone, narrated how Rra Gaone used to give them lifts to the cattle post in his van. We knew, the tribesman said, that every Friday he would be driving to the cattle post so we waited for him. He even remembered the vehicle’s number plates.

Rra Gaone was not only loyal to his family. He was loyal to his country which he served as a teacher, journalist, farmer, Vice President, President and father. His was not just service though. It was voluntary servitude. His life was the epitome of country commitment and honour for the youth, men and women of this beloved Botswana, our land. For, there are very few mortals who serve mankind as though they are serving God Almighty. There are very few mortals who serve their people for more than forty eight years and retire almost blemishless.

Though still very popular when his time to retire came he did willingly. When many of his peers in Africa clung to power to the detriment of their people he listened to his conscience and left. Knowing that he owed Batswana a farewell he travelled the length and breadth of this country bidding them farewell.

Rra Gaone’s calling was not just to serve Batswana. His was to also serve the world. As we lamented in that June of 2017, Basotho too lamented. So too did the Zaireans for they knew peace because of him. Not even when his life was in peril did he relent. What selfless human being was this? Sesinyi said he was humbled when, despite his plane being shot at in August 1988 while flying over Angola on his way from Gaborone to a meeting in the Angolan capital, Luanda, he nonetheless wanted to continue assisting in peace keeping missions in war torn countries.

Rra Gaone’s life was for both the present and the future, but probably more for the latter. He had this insatiable pursuit for long term goals. The vision he bequeathed upon us, Vision 2016, is a case in point. Rra Gaone was a true disciple of the practice of delayed gratification for the sake of the future end. This he showed not only through the long term vision, Vision 2016, but also through the potentially politically suicidal political reforms he championed.

As a true democrat, he reduced the voting age from 21 to 18; he introduced the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC); the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC); the Ombudsman and external balloting. Being the democrat he was he tolerated those with differing political ideologies. Leach Thomelang, formerly of the Botswana National Front (BNF), has narrated how Rra Gaone used to engage him in national assignments despite belonging to the Opposition.

BNF Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa, has stated that during Rra Gaone’s tenure as President the All Party Caucus where the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) met with all Opposition parties to discuss political issues, especially those related to elections, was functional. Rra Gaone was a statesman. Yet, he never forgot his roots. Obviously influenced by his love for farming, he championed the introduction of such Agricultural programmes as Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme (ARAP), Arable Lands Development Programme (ALDEP), Services to Livestock Owners in Communal Areas (SLOCA) and the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP).

Rra Gaone was proud of his culture as a Motswana. He loved Setswana and spoke it with such eloquence that very few who rise to his heights do. Being a graduate of Tiger Kloof and being a state President did not make him claim to have forgotten some Setswana words.  Though I had always known that he is humble, when I met him in January 2016 I was humbled by his humility. He was unassuming. He made me feel important. He gave me about three hours of his time during which we collegially discussed the state of our nation, Botswana.

He told me that though he does not always agree with what I write, he appreciates my contribution to the growth of our democracy. He never asked me which political party I belong to. He never recruited me to join his party, the BDP. He never asked about my tribe. He lamented how our cow, Botswana, is dying before our eyes; how we are regressing as far as adherence to democracy is concerned; how our leaders no longer listen to the people; and how our commitment to tolerance as a nation is waning.

He bewailed how our leaders do not listen to advice from former leaders and the elderly. In his trade mark laughter he said ‘Monna gatwe we want to rule from the grave’. He disclosed how he was among those who were accused of contributing to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a political party that splintered from the BDP in 2010.

He mourned that had the BDP leadership listened to the advice of such leaders as Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe the late Gomolemo Motswaledi would not have been suspended from the BMD and the formation of the BMD would probably have been avoided. He bemoaned how we, as a nation, are departing from such principles as ‘therisanyo’ i.e. consultation that our founding President and his predecessor, Sir Seretse Khama, sacrificed so much to set, of course with his help and that of our other founding fathers and mothers.

Towards the end of our meeting, in his characteristic jokes, he said ‘Rra ke seka ka go beela ruri fa ka nna Mosadi wame o ntlogetse. O tshwanetse wa ya lapeng ka nako oe go bona Mosadi’ loosely translated to mean ‘Sir, I should not keep you here longer because my wife is late. You have to go home in time for your wife.

Of course, we continued our meeting for about thirty minutes after, during which time I expressed concern how we, as a nation, do not recognize and honour our leaders during their life time. He expressed similar concern, but did not speak much on the subject matter, perhaps because it affected him. After the meeting, he, through his Private Secretary, Fraser Tlhoiwe, sent his gratitude that I honored his invitation and attended the meeting.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

POSITIVITY
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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

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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