Growing up, one of my favourite things in life was the bubble gum brand, “Chappies”. For a few reasons; the first was trying to guess the colour of the gum, some obvious, some not. The second was the, “did you know” trivia.
I still buy the gum to muse over the facts. Here’s my inspired, “did you know” tribute in celebration of the President’s Day holiday. Let’s see how many fun facts you know about Botswana’s Presidents in this holiday tribute.
Sir Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama
Did you know that Sir Seretse Khama became Chief at the age of four?
This was after the passing of his father, Sekgoma Kgama II, paramount chief of the Bangwato. Seretse Khama took office before the age of 50, making him Botswana’s youngest president.
Sir Seretse’s name translates to, “the clay that binds”. This name was to celebrate the reconciliation of his father and grandfather. His name also became symbolic when he united the people of Bechuanaland, the Dikgosi, Sebele I and Bathoen I, on the historical journey the country becoming a Protectorate. And not long after, a sovereign state.
At the beginning of his presidency, Botswana was the world’s third poorest country. He established the country as a corruption-free bureaucracy with effective economic reforms.
Less than 20 years after independence Botswana was one of the fastest-growing economies. And remains one of Africa’s strongest economies.
The movie, A United Kingdom, is the modern re-telling of Khama’s famous love story.
Sir Seretse Khama was president from 30 September 1966 to 13 July 1980.
Sir Quette Ketumile Joni Masire
Did you know Sir Seretse Khama and Quett Masire met because of Masire’s influential role as editor at the Naledi ya Batswana newspaper?
Masire’s organisational ability and energy were the reasons that the visionary Seretse Khama approached him to form the Bechuanaland Democratic Party. Then, at independence appointed as Vice President. Later succeeding Khama to become the second president after Khama’s passing.
The two “Old Tigers” attended the Tiger Kloof Educational Institution in South Africa. The Tiger Kloof administrative block received its name “Sir Quett Masire Building” in 2015.
Masire’s presidency was marked by the country’s transformation from a third-world economy, to a middle-income economy. Now one of Africa’s most thriving economies.
Dr Quett Masire was president of the republic from 18 July 1980 to 31 March 1998.
Festus Gontebanye Mogae
Did you know that Festus Mogae is the 2008 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership Laureate?
The award recognises good governance throughout the continent. Mogae received an HIV test in public as a way of breaking the stigma around the disease, encouraging the Nation to test for the virus.
Mogae’s presidency term was largely dedicated to his fight to curb the spread of the virus. Botswana at the time had the second-highest rate of infection in the world.
This award carries a $5 million award over 10 years, a $200,000 annual lifetime stipend thereafter. A discretionary $200,000 sum is awarded per year, for a decade, to Mogae-designated “good causes.”
Mogae was president from 1 April 1998 to 1 April 2008.
Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Did you know Lieutenant General Ian Khama is a qualified pilot and Botswana Defence Force’s youngest Brigadier?
He joined the military at the age of 24. And received a number of accolades. Including Founder Officer Medal for being part of the Botswana Defense Force when it was created in 1977, the Duty Code Order for devotion to duty, and the Distinguished Service Medal in 1997 after 20 years of service.
Contrary to his militant background he often found ways of connecting with the youth of Botswana during his presidency. Many would remember his iconic meerkat photograph. As well as the “tlhomela” dance video that went viral.
He affectionally refers to himself as, “Bundle of joy ya ga Ruta”, showing his more humorous side.
Ian Khama was president from 1 April 2008 to 1 April 2018.
Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi
Did you know that before launching into his teaching career, President Masisi was an actor?
In 1984 he won acclaim for his portrayal of the lead role in a Gaborone production of Cry the Beloved Country. He also took part in several South African films.
Each presidency has its unique challenges. Soon after his election in 2019, President Masisi was faced with the difficult task of keeping the country safe through the global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. Botswana has one of the world’s lowest death and cases confirmed of the virus.
Masisi took the presidential office on 1 April 2018 and is the current president of Botswana.
I hope you found this holiday tribute to our Presidents as intriguing as I did. I am very grateful for the honourary leadership from our Presidents, which has marked Botswana as a nation worth celebrating.
Remember to share this President’s Day holiday tribute with your friends. Happy holidays!
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