Scores of mourners who attended Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Gomolemo Motswaledi’s funeral in Serowe came back convinced that former President Quett Masire is a closet opposition sympathizer who embedded a clarion call for a change of government in his eulogy.
A grief stricken Masire, hitherto believed to be the keeper of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) flame dropped crossword puzzle-like clues to his strong wish for a change of government and his fears for Botswana’s future.
The former president of Botswana told thousands of mourners that those who shared Motswaledi’s ideals should continue where he left off and make sacrifices that Motswaledi made in pursuit of a just and democratic Botswana. Masire stopped just short of endorsing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) – a project closest to the latter’s heart.
“A revolution happens when you lose confidence in a government and there is no alternative” said Masire who said he was confident that those who shared Motswaledi’s ideals would continue where he left off and make sacrifices that Motswaledi made in pursuit of a just and democratic Botswana.
“We are hurting. Gomolemo was my friend. As a consequence of that friendship, some in my party [The ruling Botswana Democratic Party] suspected I was also a member of his party [the Botswana Movement for Democracy] The Lord gave and Lord has taken” said Masire.
“Ecce Homo (Behold the man),” When the road diverged in front of me, I took the road less travelled. The UDC took the road never travelled. We became bearers. It is men, real men who fight real battles,” roared Duma Boko President of the UDC in Latin and English.┬á
Ecce homo are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of John 19:5, when he presents a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion.
Masire somewhat felt Boko’s message was not strong enough. He said everyone must be brave and stand up for their country as Gomolemo did.
“Gomolemo was not alone [in this journey] he was with those who shared his ideas. Duma Boko is saying Ecce homo (behold the man) I say Batho ke ba [Here are the people]” said Masire with a flicker in his eyes as he scanned members of the UDC among multitudes of mourners who filled to capacity two white marquee tents at the consecrated grounds of the UCCSA Church.
Masire borrowed lines from “The Call” a famous poem by British poet Thomas Osbert Mordaunt’s: “Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife! ┬áTo all the sensual world proclaim, One crowded hour of glorious strife is worth an age without a name,”as he paid tribute to a man whom he bestowed a Presidential Order for Meritorious Service in 1997 for outstanding contribution to national life.
“Spread the message. The future of our country is paramount. We need visionary people on the future of the country not those who want to create a name only for them-selves,” Masire advised. Outside thousands the tent, thousands of mourners listened to a live radio broadcast of the funeral by GabzFm commercial radio station. Some were in their cars others in homes.┬á Later a procession of vehicles forming a stretch of about three kilometers made it to Gomolemo’s final resting place. In apparent reference to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Masire lamented that Botswana is faced with a serious problem and cannot afford to have a party that is led and ran by family.
Boko portrayed Motswaledi’s death as the heaviest price he [Motswaledi] paid for the principles he believed in.┬á Before his eulogy, the UDC leader rejuvenated mourners with Motswaledi’s signature hymn “Morena ba etele”.
Ndaba Gaolathe described Motswaledi as a first among equals continuously a servant of the people who wrote beautiful healing music.┬á He elevated Motswaledi to the status of world acclaimed apartheid freedom fighters Steve Biko, who was killed in police detention, and Nelson Mandela, himself imprisoned for life but served 27 years┬á in jail, for opposing a repressive regime of white minority rule.
“Here lies a simple man of beautiful speech, a democrat, an operator of a national project, a disciplined cadre, a visionary, a peacemaker, a man not afraid of speaking the truth. Gomolemo would have made a great President of Botswana,” said an emotional Gaolathe to loud cheers.┬á┬á He made an impassioned plea for the police to “protect our [opposition] leaders”.
“Give us support. You don’t have to stand up and say you support the UDC,” he said. Ndaba told mourners that one of the things Motswaledi frequently told those who shared his ideals was to stand up for what is right. He said Botswana has veered off from the path of its known democratic rule under Khama’s rule.
Counting one billion is as good as counting sand grains said Masire to rousing cheers in support of Johnson Motshwarakgole who had earlier implored all opposition parties to unite to unseat the ruling party from power saying corruption under Khama’s administration was fast eating the country’s moral fiber.
“If one man can carry P50 million in a brief case and bankers run away then we have a problem. If we do not do so we may find ourselves with nothing but caves,” said Motshwarakgole to loud cheers.
The apparent difficult decision by Masire to lend support for opposition unity, albeit in his twilight years, to remove the ruling BDP – a party he formed with the first President of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama comes amid growing public anger that Botswana has veered off from its democratic norms since Ian Khama became┬á President.
A poster on one truck read: A victim of scheming, sabotages and coldness. With a quote from John F. Kennedy that a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
Gomolemo fought a bitter battle with President Ian Khama immediately after being elected the BDP Secretary General in Kanye in 2009 over the powers of the party President. He took the matter to the High Court and lost on an appeal before he resigned from the party in 2010 and subsequently became the founding President of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Lesotho Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing told mourners that he met Motswaledi while the latter was the BDP Secretary General. Metsing urged: “I know emotions are high. Whatever you do please remain peaceful. When history is re-written it will be incomplete without Gomolemo’s name on it.”
Motlatsi Molapisi of the Botswana Peoples Party which is part of the UDC said, “People have lost trust in government. This country is on the political trend of Africa. This country has derailed from the democratic norm. [John Kalafatis was killed but the government freed the people who killed him, said.