Quett Masire was born on July 23, 1925. If he were alive he would have turned 93 years of age on Monday. President Mokgweetsi Masisi was born in July too, July 21, 1961 to be exact. He turned 57 last Saturday. Though both presidents were born on the same month, if you believe in the stars, their birthdays make Masisi a Cancer and Masire a Leo. Cancers are said to be tenacious, highly imaginative, loyal, emotional, sympathetic, and persuasive, while Leos are said to be creative, passionate, generous, warm-hearted, cheerful, and humorous. Perhaps there is some truth to the claims that the stars imbue individuals with certain traits in abundance compared to others. It must be said that President Masisi has aroused our nostalgia to the times of QKJ. We see in him traits which made Masire such a popular and successful leader. O bokilwe ke Sekokotla Kaboeamodimo, that formidable Ngwaketse poet, a re ke: “Tiba-ka-nkoto ya ga MmaKhwete, Ka-nkoto ya ga MmaKetumile; Kgomo e tiba ka tlhako ya morago; Mongwe e tlaa lala e mo ragile; E ragile monna a ga Phantsha” Obviously “Monna wa ga Phantsha” Sekokotla is lampooning the Puo Phaa, BNF opponents.
I have been asked about how I think Masire would like to be remembered. I am not sure I have an answer to that question. I however know what was most important to him. I know he was most proud of his achievement as one who established the founding principles and values of a modern, democratic Botswana. For Masire his political party, the BDP, was not more important than a unified peaceful Botswana. The idea of a free, modern, just, fair, and morally upright Botswana was more important to him than anything else. Party politics to him were only a vehicle to deliver justice, peace and prosperity to the people. I am fortunate to have known him closely to call him a father and a friend. Mr. Satar Dada writes about Masire in most glowing terms: “He and the other first-generation BDP leaders were all honest, straightforward people. Like all Batswana they were very humble, practical people with no arrogance or pretence about them, and very civil.” It is these qualities that we see in President Masisi too. His honest and straightforward talk with the media, his Cabinet, unions and leaders of opposition parties is a breath of fresh air to the national political space. Every honest individual admires the President for his spirit of therisanyo. The President is not pretentious. He has no airs about him. He is one of us, working hard to transform our republic into a modern and successful place for the benefit of all Batswana. He dresses and talks like the average Motswana. He exudes energy and what the Americans call spunk. It definitely feels like a new dawn has come upon us as a people. President Masisi has revived our faith and hope that we can achieve anything we set our eyes minds to as a people. His patriotism is obvious. Like Quett Masire the idea of a free, modern, just, fair, and morally upright Botswana is very important to President Masisi. He abhors tribalism and racism. He sees his privilege to serve as President as a vehicle to deliver justice, peace and prosperity to all the people of Botswana. President Masisi’s first 100 days in office articulate his resolve to deal decisively with the challenges that confront his government. Even his critics, privately and in hushed voices, praise him for his fortitude and focus.
But there is another side to QKJ which we must mention, which we see in President Masisi. He was a devout family man. He loved his children and his wife Gladys Olebile Masire deeply. The Masires had six children: three sons and three daughters. MmaGaone had raised her children exceptionally well with national duty and party politics competing for Sir Ketumile’s time. In public it was rare to see Sir Ketumile without Lady Masire. The solid bond between the two was unmissable. And yet Lady Masire was just MmaGaone ÔÇô just one of us: not pretentious and self-assuming. She was not loud and self-seeking. But she was there in support of her husband; almost shy, speaking in a low voice; a sa epetlege. She was a Lady. We grew up looking up to them with supreme pride and admiration. Nations are strange entities. In many ways they are like families. Citizens look up to their leaders as an example, even if such leaders did not intend to set themselves on a pedestal as national models.
President Masisi too has revived our faith in the family as a critical institution. The image of him with the First Lady, Mrs Neo Masisi, and their daughter Atsile, reminds us of QKJ, Lady Masire and the children. They remind us that the family is the base of the society. Sadly President Masisi takes over at a times when Botswana is faced with the worst family woes. Divorce rates are sky-rocketing. More and more children are now born out of wedlock today than at any point in the history of our country. Currently, about 73% of the children born in Botswana are born to and raised by a single parent largely in a female headed household. The men are absent. Their sons and daughters are raised by the mothers on their own. The truth is as a society we have systematically undermined the family at all sort of levels.
This is an exciting time for Botswana. We have a great President who has the interest of the nation at heart. We wish him all the best and success in his presidency. May he rule this country with wisdom, humility and righteousness for the holy scriptures are right: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” May his name and stature increase amongst the peoples of the earth. May his presidency bring jobs to our youth, an improvement to the quality of our education and an end to rampant corruption. I wish him and his wife, Mrs Neo Masisi, excellent health and success in the execution of what would undeniably be a most challenging assignment of their lives.