Mbeki salutes his com­rade and friend, Masire

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ZIGGY MOGOPODI

FOR­MER pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki was among the thou­sands of mourn­ers who braved the cold yes­ter­day to bid farewell to for­mer Botswana pres­i­dent, Sir Ke­tu­mile Masire, who died last week.

Mbeki was among sev­eral for­mer heads of state from the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) re­gion at the send-off, in­clud­ing Tan­za­nia’s Ben­jamin Mkapa and Mozam­bique’s Ar­mando Gue­buza. Other dig­ni­taries from the re­gion in­cluded King Let­sie III of Lesotho and for­mer OAU sec­re­tary-gen­eral Salim Ahmed Salim, and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mbeki told mourn­ers Masire was never in­tim­i­dated by the apartheid gov­ern­ment and con­trib­uted im­mensely to the lib­er­a­tion Strug­gle. “For many years Botswana served as a bridge for many lib­er­a­tion strug­gles in our re­gion… and among those helped by this coun­try were Oliver Tambo, Nel­son Man­dela, Pres­i­dent (Robert) Mu­gabe, Samora Machel, and Sam Nu­joma…”

Mbeki said there were oth­ers who came back to Botswana and main­tained an or­gan­ised pres­ence that served as an in­dis­pens­able link in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion chain, which made it pos­si­ble to work with var­i­ous strug­gles in this re­gion.

He added it was in­evitable the apartheid regime would do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make Botswana pay for its role and many Batswana were killed by the regime.

In 1985 and 1986 apartheid sol­diers at­tacked Gaborone and Mo­godit­shane but this did not de­ter the Batswana who con­tin­ued to sup­port their South African broth­ers and sis­ters un­til apartheid ended.

“I am cer­tain I speak for all the peo­ple of south­ern Africa when I pay a heart­felt tribute to Sir Ke­tu­mile for the cen­tral role he and his col­leagues played in as­sur­ing that this coun­try and its peo­ple re­main stead­fast in their sup­port for the to­tal lib­er­a­tion of south­ern Africa”.

Mbeki said that had Masire suc­cumbed to the in­tim­i­da­tion of the apartheid regime, the Strug­gle would not have suc­ceeded. Masire and his pre­de­ces­sor Sir Seretse Khama stood their ground and made nec­es­sary sac­ri­fices to help bring down the neigh­bour­ing tyran­ni­cal mi­nor­ity apartheid regime.

“Per­son­ally, I was very hon­oured to ex­pe­ri­ence this mag­nif­i­cent, skilled and coura­geous lead­er­ship at close quar­ters, given that from 1973 on­wards I was priv­i­leged to work closely with the gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of Botswana – Pres­i­dent Sir Ke­tu­mile Masire, Pres­i­dent Ian Khama, who was lead­ing the Botswana De­fence Force. These were the peo­ple who sup­ported us dur­ing those years,” Mbeki said.

He said he was moved by the per­sonal friend­ship that was born from that work­ing re­la­tion­ship. He said Masire was the ar­chi­tect of mod­ern-day Botswana trans­form­ing it from one of the poor­est to a mid­dle-in­come state.

Mbeki at­trib­uted the birth of the SADC, suc­cess of front­line states to Masire who also con­trib­uted in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo peace deal, and the res­o­lu­tion of the af­ter­math of the Rwanda geno­cide.

He de­scribed him as an out­stand­ing African who lived a life that brought good to mil­lions of peo­ple who lived in and out­side Botswana.

“He was a great son of Botswana and Africa”.

He was never in­tim­i­dated by apartheid regime

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