How well do you know your ruler? Not the one that you measure with, we mean the government who rules Botswana. Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966 and thanks to the good decisions made by the government; the country has moved leaps and bounds since then, fast becoming one of the strongest and most stable countries in Africa.
Seretse Khama was the first democratically elected president of Botswana after gaining independence. He had the mammoth task of transforming what was known as the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland into an independent country that can govern itself. Khama ruled Botswana from 1966 until his death in office in 1980.
Seretse had an interesting, and some might say privileged, life growing up. He was born the son of Queen Tebogo and Sekgoma Khama II, the paramount chief of the Bamangwato people. He was named Seretse, which translates to ‘the clay that binds’ to celebrate the reconciliation of his father and grandfather after a falling out. It was this this reconciliation that ensured Serete’s ascension to the throne. His father passed away in 1925 and Seretse became king (known as a kgosi) at the age of four.
Seretse received most of his education in neighbouring South Africa and later went to study in the United Kingdom. While he was there, he met and fell in love with a woman named Ruth Williams. After a year of courtship, they were married. The marriage sparked a huge uproar because Ruth was a white woman. The marriage angered the elders of the Bamangwato, who wanted Seretse to choose one of their own.
The Union of South Africa had just established Apartheid and were alarmed at this development. The South African government had banned interracial marriage and was opposed to having an interracial couple in power just across the border. The couple was banned from entering South Africa and South Africa enlisted Britain’s help to have Khama removed from chieftainship. Britain conducted an enquiry into Khama’s ability to lead. The report stated that Khama was “eminently fit to rule the Bamangwato, but for his unfortunate marriage”. The couple was exiled from Bechuanaland in 1951 but returned five years later.
Lady Ruth Khama, as she came to be known, won the people over with her sunny and giving nature. She quickly rose in popularity and did a lot of charity work, especially for vulnerable women and children. Her son, Ian Khama, began the Lady Khama Charitable Trust in 2002 to carry on his mother’s legacy that she had spent so much of her life pursuing.
Ian Khama was born in Surrey as the second child of Seretse and Ruth. Ian attended college in Swaziland and qualified as a pilot at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Ian Khama was elected as vice president in 1998, where according to the Botswana constitution he had to renounce his unclaimed hereditary chieftaincy. Despite this, many of the Bamangwato tribe still see him as their chief.
Ian Khama was elected as president in 2009 and was reelected in 2014. After 10 years of rule, he was succeeded by Mokgweetsi Masis, who was sworn in as the 5th president of Botswana on 1 April 2018.
Botswana has one of the most stable democracies in the world, as well as one of the lowest corruption ratings in the world. The Government of Botswana has made some good decisions, pouring a lot of money into infrastructure, mining, telecommunications, tourism and more, turning Botswana into a world class force to be reckoned with.