With the passing away of Sir Ketumile Masire, Botswana has lost not just a founding father and former president but the last surviving direct participant in the 1965 independence talks. This basically means that the nation has lost its last first-hand source of very important historical knowledge.
That is indeed confirmed by Dr. Rodgers Molefi, a historian and educationist who himself has a special place in Masire’s life story.
“Yes, I can indeed confirm 100 percent that he was the last surviving architect of the constitution as well as the current political dispensation,” says Molefi who, until 2009, was a history lecturer at the University of Botswana.
The pre-independence constitutional review process began in 1959 and the very first one was dominated by traditional leaders of the Tswana tribes who, seven years later, would be called the “eight main tribes.” The second talks were in 1963, at which time the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had been formed. The BDP had been formed two years earlier, with Masire becoming its founding Secretary General. The final talks (the Independence Conference as they were called) were held in London in 1965. These talks were recently the subject of a Court of Appeal case relating to the appointment of judges. The contention was with regard to who, between the president and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) can appoint High Court judges.
Minutes of these talks were instrumental in a finding by two judges that the founding fathers wanted the JSC (and not the president) to appoint judges. What was interesting about the relevance of what those at the talks intended, as reflected in the minutes, was that Masire ÔÇô as the last surviving architect of the constitution, never made any input at any one point.
The first Motswana to become a master farmer (in 1956 as Molefi recalls), Masire died a fortnight ago after a surgical operation. The self-described “farmer-loaned-to-politics” was also an educationist who co-founded and became headmaster of Seepapitso Secondary School in his home village of Kanye. The latter detail is very well known. Less known is that he also had a teaching stint at the Capital Continuing Classes (CCC), a now defunct Gaborone private school that was renowned for its excellent instruction and examination results. On account of being way too mature (20 years when he did Form 1), Molefi was not admitted to a government school and so went to CCC where Masire taught him Mathematics. Another one of the teachers was famed author, Moabi S. Kitchen, who taught Setswana.
Masire was buried in Kanye on Thursday.