Sir Ketumile Masire’s position in the annals of Botswana’s history books is guaranteed.
He may not exactly be such a saint, but Masire is the closest thing we have to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
Desecrating him and going all out to humiliate him as this government seems bent on doing can only backfire.
Against his wishes, whenever the country and ruling party run into trouble as was the case leading up to a split that bequeathed the BMD and also in the ongoing public service strike, Masire’s name is never too far off the line.
Unfortunately for Botswana, he is a statesman respected more abroad than at home, and even less appreciated today by a party he formed fifty years ago.
Today’s government is particularly impatient and overtly wary of him.
His commitment to pluralism goes against the grail.
They look at him as a nuisance that belongs to another era.
To be fair to all involved, Masire’s character has also not helped his cause.
Self-made, strong-willed and assertive, Masire has never had any patience for aristocracy or its worshippers. And today’s Botswana has all the hallmarks of the dark ages of aristocracy.
Not only is he stubborn, he also is irrepressible.
His cross encounters with Bathoen II are legendary.
It was only a matter of time that he would cross paths with the modern day aristocrat turned politician that is our Ian Khama.
It is only natural that the more there is a perception of democracy deficit, the more Masire’s influence grows, in and outside the BDP. In fact, Masire has long ceased to be a BDP property.
In a big way he is the chief custodian of the country’s founding ideals.
Is it any wonder that the enemies of democracy see him as creating another centre of power?
In their minds he is ruling from the grave.
And our current government hates sharing power. In fact, they are afraid of ever having to share or lose power.
Because he is unencumbered by exigencies trapping other BDP members, Sir Ketumile is rightly seen as the only one who can stand up to the excesses of Ian Khama’s presidency.
And so, if Masire does not speak, who else will?
Thus the older he grows and the more dictatorial this government gets, the more influence he will command, including from those who had violently differed with him during his many years as state president.
Another former president, Festus Mogae, is discounted from the hallowed books on account of the direct role he has played in bringing us the trouble into which we find ourselves.
For as long as Ian Khama is at the helm, Mogae will be seen as part of the problem.
It is an intricate tragedy from which Mogae cannot just walk away.
As a nation, we have to constantly remind ourselves that Masire is one of the few remaining remnants of the founding fathers who were key figures at the table that founded the republic.
But of late, for him the omens do not look good.
With many of the founders since dead, he now has the misfortune of being the only one among them to witness that very republic shattered.
His long life has meant that he has had the misfortune of watching with sadness and distaste as generations that came after his took the dream astray.
How painful it must be to carry to his grave the knowledge that the aura of BDP invincibility that he cultivated with his friend, Seretse Khama, has in fact been an illusion.
It is in times like these that one must surely wish they had long died so that they could not be witnesses to the destruction of the ideals and institutions they painstakingly setup.
My heart goes out to Sir Ketumile Masire.
At a time when everyone is dumbstruck by helplessness and confusion, his world must be compounded, first by deep feelings of loneliness, followed by sorrow and now humiliation, ironically inflicted by direct descendants of a crowd with whom he used to share the best moments of hope and resolve as together during those early years they spent sleepless nights expending their energies to bring to life a project to which as a collective they had dedicated their lives.
Nobody can predict with any measure of certainty what will befall Botswana in the next few days and weeks as a strike action that started as a civil and legal way to demand salary increases now degenerates into a meltdown that threatens to bring down a whole country with it.
Already, there are signs that anarchy and lawlessness are just a few of the curses that await us.
But beating about the bush will take us nowhere.
All blame must be put at the doorstep of the BDP Government for their shoddy response to the strike action.
Not for the first time, Masire’s well meaning intentions to offer a helping hand has been rudely turned down by those who in another era he would have been seen fighting with from the same corner. How fast things change! They now see him as intrusive and aggressively inquisitive.
What bigger irony can there be than having a man’s nightmares come from the heart of a system that he literally founded, nurtured and grown to formally regard as his lifetime achievement?
But his conscience does not allow him to keep quiet.
Such is Masire’s dilemma as he helplessly watches his world shattered at his feet, destroyed by the very political party he created, the BDP.
For him the tragedy must be all the more painful because there is not much time or energy left in him for yet another long and painstaking rebuilding exercise. Pain, regret and a feeling of lost opportunities are all he will take with himself to his grave. These are the messages he will take as he joins Seretse Khama in another world.
Thus yesterday’s world of hope, achievement and contentment has been replaced by impotence, nostalgia and defeat.
What a sad way to sign off after such a long career of selfless service, devotion and patriotism.
But the current BDP leaders may yet pay a heavier price for their arrogance.