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Many have described the late Sir Seretse Khama as a staunch individual who worked tirelessly to lay a solid foundation which transformed Botswana into a shining example of democracy and development that she is today. BOPA reporter Thato Modiakgotla retraces the development agenda that unfolded during Sir Seretse Khama's time as a President.
Born into a royal family of Bangwato, on July 1, 1921, to Sekgoma Khama II and Tebogo Kebailele, in then Bechuanaland, the late Sir Seretse Khama and his administration worked hard to advance the status of the country and changed the perception that there was nothing positive to be derived from Botswana.
It is out of this noble gesture, that July 1 was marked in the national calendar as a holiday to celebrate the life and achievements of Botswana's first president.
According to the University of Botswana's Professor Christian Makgala, Sir Seretse Khama's leadership qualities saw him rise in his political career during the then Bechuanaland Protectorate.
This was under the British rule when he ultimately became the country's first President when the now Botswana gained Independence of September 30, 1966. History will relate that prior to gaining independence, Botswana was clustered as one of the poorest countries in the world, and wholly dependent on foreign aid.
As told by Prof. Makgala, it was under the late Sir Seretse Khama that Botswana dusted herself and regained some momentum in terms of economic growth. This move was jump-started by the discovery of diamonds, followed by among others, the exportation of beef and revival of the agricultural sector.
On issues of health, Prof. Makgala explained that Sir Seretse Khama collaborated with different organisations among them, the World Health Organisation to improve the country's health system. Measures were put in place including the use of mobile clinics to fight diseases such as polio and smallpox which killed people in large numbers in Africa. Even though hospitals were mostly under missionaries, he said Sir Seretse Khama's administration ensured that hospitals such as Marina were built around independence.
He said Sir Seretse Khama's main focus was of promoting literacy. With limited budget and assistance from the international community such as US Peace Corps, Sir Seretse Khama ensured that a good number of Batswana became literate and more schools were built.
Prof. Makgala observed that the first President also played a crucial role in the establishment of the University of Botswana, by employing a strategy of Motho le Motho Kgomo. He said individuals were encouraged to contribute in-kind towards the realisation of the project and the nation did not only donate cows but brought different contributions, even chickens which in the end contributed to nation-building.
Regional and International Affairs
Known to be very vocal against racial discrimination which was a challenge in the neighbouring countries, Sir Seretse Khama, did not shy away from talking about it. He emerged a negotiator as he was often called forward to calm the brewing conflicts in bordering countries.
Prof. Makgala said he also played an important role in the development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an inter-governmental organisation which aims to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among its members.
During Sir Seretse's Presidency, it was not common in Africa to have a sustainable democratic system of elections. However, Prof. Makgala said Botswana succeeded in maintaining that since he was tolerant towards the opposition parties.
Sir Seretse Khama believed that 'Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo', meaning differences could be resolved by discussing them rather than resorting to violence hence his firm belief in the consultation process.
He was not interested in the notion of one-party state or military coups which were very common in Africa during his time. Prof. Makgala explained that since he was a Kgosi, many believed he could have used his popularity to turn Botswana into a one party state, something he was totally against and bagged accolades for this.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>