Mmegi Online :: Mma Atsile: The impending First Lady
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Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
Mma Atsile: The impending First Lady

With all eyes fixated on the inauguration of the country’s fIfth President Mokgweetsi Masisi next year on April 1, the public is eagerly waiting to know who the incoming First Lady is, and just like her predecessors, what are her plans for the nation. Mmegi Staffers RYDER GABATHUSE & LEBOGANG MOSIKARE explore possibilities of what the impending First Lady will be involved in during her tenure
By Ryder Gabathuse Lebogang Mosikare Fri 08 Dec 2017, 18:48 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Mma Atsile: The impending First Lady

FRANCISTOWN: First Ladies in history of Botswana and globally are known for playing various important roles in society, leaving the political route totally to their husbands.

It is common cause that for a First Lady to be effective in serving the nation, she should be apolitical since she will be working with people from different political parties and interests.

Although the role of the First Ladies in Botswana is largely ceremonial because they are not elected to serve in any government position, their roles however cannot be underestimated.

According to the Lady Khama Charitable Trust, the country’s First Lady Ruth Khama was well known for her charitable works, especially those concerning the needs of disadvantaged women and children.

This concern manifested itself in her leadership of numerous charities, most notably the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS), the Botswana Council of Women and the SOS Children’s Villages.

It was through her character that she reflected the core principles of the BRCS of: humanity, impartiality, independence, voluntary services, unity and universality.

Lady Khama would visit hospitals where she would show her generosity by doling out food to all the patients and thereby leaving a long lasting impression in the minds of many people.

Her dedication to these ideals was a source of personal strength that predates the period of her famous marriage, the story of which held her as a global symbol of the triumph of the love of family and community over racial ignorance and hate, according to the trust’s website.

Following the death of Botswana’s first president Sir Seretse Khama, Gladys Olebile Masire, the wife of Botswana’s second president Sir Ketumile Masire, succeeded Lady Khama in the role.

Mma Gaone as Lady Masire was affectionately called was also involved in charity organisations, as was Mma Nametso (Barbara Mogae), the wife of Festus Mogae, Botswana’s third president.

To be specific, Barbara Mogae had keen interest in environmental issues during her spouse’s presidency as she worked closely amongst others with the NGO Environmental Heritage Foundation (EHF), which was involved in clean-up campaigns across the country.

To be fair to all Botswana’s former first ladies, they never poked their noses into the mainstream politics of the country but kept their opinions to themselves although in most cases it is truism that they supported the parties of their spouses.

Some worried Batswana would like to quickly forget that for the past 10 years, there was no First Lady at the State House for the first time in Botswana’s history. In equal measure, Batswana are waiting with excitement to welcome the country’s incoming First Lady, Neo Jane Masisi on April 1, 2018.

Masisi’s wife is an accountant by profession who spent years in the employ of the UN agency in Ethiopia and local enterprises. Mma Atsile, as she is affectionately known, will finally resume her role as the First Lady when the time comes and give the First Citizen the requisite company as he goes about his official duties locally and internationally. First Ladies are also part of the bigger team of the sitting president’s advisers. They (First Ladies), in isolated incidents, can also mislead their spouses to act outside their mandate in the name of appeasing them.

Save for a few sightings in the official and at BDP functions in company of her spouse recently, little is known about the impending First Lady.

Journals show that her highest qualification is a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree that she obtained from De Montfort University (UK) from 2001 to 2004.

Her profile also shows that Masisi worked at the United Nations Headquarters (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) in the international affairs department in Ethiopia.

At the UN, she held a number of positions in different fields both in Africa and overseas.

The next First Lady has since retired sometimes this year. Her decorated profile


shows that she has worked at Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (Management Accountant), Global Resorts Botswana (Complex Accountant), Botswana Earth Moving Company (Financial Accountant) and Debswana Diamond Company (Accountant).

Mma Atsile has vowed that upon resumption of the role of the First Lady, she shall utilise her tenure to venture into the problematic area of education.

It is a well-known fact that politics is a dirty game where all sorts of tricks even insults are traded to discredit one’s opponent.

The insults that are sometimes traded at political rallies once irked President Khama to the extent that he was once quoted as saying if he had a choice, he would have chosen to govern the country over leading a political party.

But no matter how hurt they may have felt because of the insults that were sporadically hurled at their husbands at different forums, First Ladies in Botswana are known for keeping their pains and political opinions to themselves.  Our First Ladies have a reputation of keeping their cool and focusing on their businesses than immersing themselves in political flak.

This trait earned them plaudits from various quarters in the nation even from across the political aisle.

However, across the world especially in Africa, some First Ladies are notorious for poking their noses into politics with disastrous consequences. The recent example is of Grace Mugabe, former First Lady of Zimbabwe whose husband Robert Mugabe was toppled by the army in a bloodless coup a few weeks back.

Political commentators say that Grace had taken advantage of Mugabe’s old age of 93 years to further her presidential ambitions but that backfired and resulted in Robert Mugabe’s ouster from power.

Before he was toppled from power, Mugabe was a pale shadow of the man who was well known the world over for his sharp intellect and for acquiring various educational certificates in different fields.

In early November this year, the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos shared his thoughts on how he became a successful businessman.

Among the attributes that the Amazon chief executive officer (CEO) mentioned to his audience was the maxim that behind every successful man, there is a right and resourceful partner.

He said at the Summit Series: “‘I wanted someone who could get me out of a third-world prison.”

In comparison to the Bezos example, it is safe to say that Grace upended the role of the First Lady when she decided to enter the political terrain.

She may have been driven by many considerations like the family losing its ill-gotten wealth after the demise of Mugabe to enter the political arena, first as the head of ZANU-PF’s powerful women’s wing, but her move only achieved the opposite of what she had dreamt of.

Recently Grace was reportedly embroiled in another scandal in South Africa after she allegedly assaulted a model she found in the company of her flamboyant sons.

She escaped after being granted diplomatic immunity but Afriforum - a civil society group - has since launched a court action to reverse the immunity. 

Another example of a First Lady ‘behaving wildly’ contrary to the dictates of the office her husband was occupying is of the late Lucy Kibaki, the wife of Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki.

In 2005 Lucy Kibaki allegedly entered the offices of the country’s biggest-circulation newspaper, Daily Nation, where she allegedly slapped a television cameraman and seized reporters’ notebooks and tape recorders to protest against stories about her eccentric behaviour. Now the big question is whether Mma Atsile will walk in the footsteps of her predecessors or will she carve out her own path?

Mma Atsile will definitely become the cynosure of all eyes as she assumes her role and takes the confidence of the nation with her, especially after a void of a decade without a First Lady during President Ian Khama’s tenure.

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