Mbeki salutes his comrade and friend, Masire
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