The life of former president Sir Ketumile Masire was celebrated on tape at the Maitisong Hall on Friday during the premier of The African Democrat, a documentary by Botswana filmmaker, Billy Kokorwe, in partnership with British filmmaker, Dominic Savage.
Masire speaks of the challenges of the time, among them having to explain to ordinary Batswana what a political party was, and the economy being born from a budget of a mere P12 million. He also speaks of his peace keeping and mediation tasks across the region.
The 52-minute documentary on the life of a democrat, nationalist, farmer, educationalist and journalist opens with the swearing-in of Masire as the president of Botswana amidst a rejuvenated audience, which fills the air with ululations. The tapestry, as Masire referred to his life story captured by the camera's lenses - through narration and interviews - for which the filmmaker deserves much credit for he managed to get world leaders to weave the tale of Masire's life - traces the history of an enthusiastic Masire who went to schools in his home village of Kanye. After graduating from one of the esteemed institutions of the time, Tiger Kloof, South Africa, in 1950, Masire helped found Seepapitso II Secondary School - the first institution of higher learning in the Bangwaketse capital. He served as the school head for about six years.
Due to a lack of basic commodities mainly food, as he puts it, Masire retired from teaching to farming an area that he is still passionate about to-date.
In the documentary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair pays tribute to Masire's leadership style and role as a key figure in Botswana's economic development.
"Quett Masire took Botswana from where it was and made it the country it is today," Blair comments. Kokorwe and Savage chronicle the icon's political
Sir Ketumile reveals his incredible meeting with Sir Seretse Khama that sparked a shared vision and the willpower to self-rule.
"I met Sir Seretse and we found that we had a common feeling that there was a need to form a political party, so the BDP was formed and I was elected secretary general while Seretse was elected president, but the secretary general had to carry the whole load of first of all having to tell Batswana what a political party was, because the only party they knew about was a tea party," he explains humorously.
South Africa's last apartheid president Frederik W De Klerk also speaks well of Masire as having played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid.
Former President Festus Mogae also pays tribute to Sir Ketumile's role in nation building. Other contributors to Kokorwe's story of a 'great statesman" include Vice President Mompati Merafhe, former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan, Baroness Linda Chalker, former Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Balopi and Sir Ketumile's daughter, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.
In closing, Masire envisages a Botswana with stability and accelerated economic growth no matter what the political leadership transforms into. "This is a tapestry that told a story and dug into the past. It looked back at things as they were then," Masire says of The African Democrat.