Sunday, October 17, 2021

All Botswana presidents have lived in this wealthy Gaborone area

If you harbour First Citizen ambitions, history suggests that if you have lived permanently in this prestigious residential address, then you stand a pretty good chance of one day raising your right right, barely suppressing a smile and saying, “I [all Omang names] do swear that I will faithfully and diligently discharge my duties and perform my functions in the high office of president of the Republic of Botswana.”

A little thereafter, you can launch into your inauguration address and if your mother is in the audience, you can bring tears of joy to her eyes with four very simple words: “I love you mother.”

The historical record strongly suggests that to get to that rarefied podium and take that oath of office, you must have either lived or grown up in Extension 5. The latter is Botswana’s first capitalist overachiever enclave that is smack-bang in the middle of a mostly dark, foul-smelling and extremely dirty Third World city whose ever mutating sobriquets have progressively shrunk in word count from Mageba to Gabs to GC.

Thus far, there are two categories of residents who became presidents. Category 1 is of the first people to settle in Extension 5 when it was established in 1965: Sirs Seretse Khama and Ketumile Masire as well as Festus Mogae. The latter settled much later (1968) when, after his studies in Britain, he joined the Ministry of Development Planning (the present-day Ministry of Finance and Economic Development) where he worked under Vice President Masire who doubled as minister. Category 2 is of people who grew up in Extension 5 and so far includes only two people: Ian Khama and Mokgweetsi Masisi whose father was a minister in both Khama and Masire’s cabinet. Masisi is said to have been part of a pick-up soccer squad that included the children of senior government officials – that no one in that squad ever made it to the national football team says everything about the quality of the footballing skills of Extension 5 United FC in the 1970s.

A noteworthy footnote detail is that somebody else who grew up in Extension 5, Kitso Mokaila, almost made it to the presidential mansion if Khama’s first succession plan had not been scuttled by Goodhope-Mabule voters. Yet another Extension 5 child, Alliance for Progressives president, Ndaba Gaolathe, waits hopefully in the wings.

Some people would worry about a single residential district producing presidents because in one respect, this means that the presidency is rotating among a very small group of people with the same background and pretty much the same perspective. The ultra-superstitious would take up residence there with the hope that someday when Gaborone is just called G, they too will get to say “I love you mother.”

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