In this column I consider Sir Ketumile Masire’s speech delivered at the Gomolemo Motswaledi’s funeral in Serowe. The speech has been a subject of much discussion, with some arguing that it was Quett Masire’s endorsement of the UDC. In this column I argue that Quett Masire’s principal message was about rediscovering the national ideals of democracy, unity and nation building. I argue that once he had made a strong case for Botswana-first, he did endorse Duma Boko of the UDC. Masire is a statesman. He is one of the few remaining founding fathers of Botswana. When he went to the funeral, he went there to bury his friend and a son he raised in the BDP. He says: “Motswaledi e ne e le tsala ya me…mo e bileng batho bagaetsho ba party ya gaetsho ba neng ba belaela gore e sere gongwe Quett le ene o setse a tsene kwa; A e seng gore Quett le ene o tsene mo bathong ba bangwe ba!”
There had been concern from some in the BDP that Sir Masire was disgruntled with the leadership of the party he formed, to the extent that he was perceived as having gravitated more towards the UDC or more specifically towards the BMD. That was a gross mistake. Masire had not shifted, even a bit. His views have always remained core BDP values of democracy and a tolerance of divergent views. Instead, the BDP seems to have been the one that heeled away from where Masire and Seretse left it; a matter that has made Masire and many in the BDP frustrated and alienated from their party. Whether to his praise or criticism, Masire never shifted in his ideals. We must remember that Sir Masire was most impressed by Motswaledi who flourished under his presidency to the level that in his mid twenties, Motswaledi received the Presidential Meritorious Award for outstanding service to Botswana. So, when Masire went to Serowe, he went there to principally achieve one thing: go isa matshediso and not to make a political point.
In his words “Ke ha, ke tsile jaaka chaba ya Botswana, re tsile go lo gomotsa Rre RaMotswaledi; re tsile go gomotsa beno; bagaeno, le chaba ya Botswana ka bophara” However, because Motswaledi was a political figure, it was inevitable that Masire would reflect on the political landscape of Botswana. Masire therefore as a statesman reminded Batswana some core values, in particular, the issue of democracy ÔÇô not just the mere word, but the practice ÔÇô which in real life plays out, in the Masire words, in the following manner: “Mme ha re re we are democratic re itse gore ha lo le goromente, lo itse gore lo goromente e e tlaa reng kamoso e bo e le opposition; ebile ha lo le opposition, lo itse gore you are a government in waiting.” It is these words which sadly were misconstrued as an endorsement of opposition parties. I don’t think that is what Sir Masire was doing here. I believe he was reaffirming and reasserting a national ideal of democracy. He was speaking in the best interest of Botswana. Batswana must live and practice democracy and not attempt to win elections by all means possible. Instead, democracy must be given, not just a chance, but the ultimate priority in the interest of the nation. What Masire was doing was putting Botswana first, ahead of anything else. He was neither being BDP, nor was he being pro-opposition. He was non-partisan, expressing a very important national ideal that must be protected. This explains why Masire acknowledges political brilliance from both the rulling and opposition ranks: “Mme go a re itumedisa ha re bona mo maphateng oo-mabedi ÔÇô a a mo pusong le a a seng mo pusong ÔÇô ba na le batho ba ba nonohileng ba ekareng kamoso ha re latlha ba bangwe, ra bo re itse gore re ba latlhela mo go ba bangwe” Again, Masire wasn’t saying: “Ke eletsa gore bangwe ba latlhwe”. Instead he spoke as a statesman acknowledging the pool of political talent that exists across the political divide such that in the event that there was a change of government, the country will still be in good hands.
This presence of outstanding leaders across the political divide is most gratifying for Masire because the absence of a viable alternative party can lead to a revolution. He observes this when he says: “Ha go sa nne jalo ÔÇô ra nna le kgotsohalo le tsholohelo mo baneng ba rona ÔÇô e tlaa re kamoso ha e le gore ga re na tsone di party tseo, tse e leng gore di na le botho; dina le kelelelo… e tlaa re kamoso re bo re nna le direvolution ka go re go tlhobogwa batho mme ga gona sepe se sengwe se se ka dirwang.”
Masire also tried to demonstrate that Motswaledi’s dream of a better Botswana was not unique to him. The dream for a better Botswana was to be found in Motswaledi and his team of political partners. This is why Masire says: “gatwe ga a swa motho, go sale motho ÔÇô a a tlogele bomonnawe, a a tlogele matlhogela.” He develops this point further when he says “..o ntse a se nosi, o na le ba gagabo. Ga go na se a se dirileng kana se a neng a ka se dira, se a neng a sa se amusanye nabo. Megopolo, ha a ne a na le mengwe ya go tsweledisa bokamoso ja sechaba se, o e amoganye le bakaulengwe ba gagwe. Mme re a ba rotloetsa le bone gore, borra le bomma, e tla re kamoso ha lo re latlha, re itse gore lo ne lo sa sekegela se Motswaledi a neng a lekile go se amusanya le lona.”
I am therefore convinced that Masire’s speech was principally about national sacrifice; about putting Botswana first. He says: “Re tlhoka batho… Re tlhoka batho ba ba nang le tebelopele ya bokamoso ja lehatshe…Re tlhoka batho ba ba sa batleng go itirela leina ka bo bone, ba lebile leina ja lehatshe la Botswana.” In his speech Masire also expresses the need for opposition unity. He says: “mathata a lehatshe la Botswana a tlhoka badiredi ÔÇô se iphatlalatseng, ya tla ya re re re re a lo bua ra hitlhela motho a le mongwe hela hela, ele party ya motho le bana ba gagwe.”
I believe that having made the national case, Masire made an argument for Duma Boko, and indirectly endorsed the UDC. I believe that his speech was not principally about the UDC but about national ideals. I however believe Sir Masire did endorse the UDC president Duma Boko and by extension the UDC party. Masire says: “Jaaka Rre Boko a rile “Motho ke yo”, le nna ka re mme go na le motho mo, mo bathong ba ba ha ba!” I believe what Masire was saying was Ecce homo back at Duma Boko. Motho ke yo! If my analysis is right, I agree with Masire that where we are as a nation there is no better political party leader to take Botswana forward than Mr Duma Boko.