Sir Seretse Khama’s sister in law, Muriel Sanderson, is no more

MTRIP- Sisters Muriel Sanderson (L) and Ruth Khama (R)
MTRIP- Sisters Muriel Sanderson (L) and Ruth Khama (R)

Muriel Sanderson neé Williams is known to many as the person who introduced her younger sister Ruth to Seretse Khama at Nutford House, London, in 1947.

This famous encounter also led to Muriel’s long relationship with the Khama family and Botswana, where she spent the last twenty years of her life.

Apart from her close friends, however, few will be aware of Muriel’s own remarkable life, especially the one she led after leaving UK in 1960 to join the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (MEF), in Kitwe, on the Zambian Copperbelt.

The MEF was founded in 1958 to promote African development at a time when many whites in Northern Rhodesia were resisting democracy and favouring the perpetuation of white rule under the Central African Federation.

At MEF, African nationalists such as Kenneth Kaunda were supported in their efforts and placed in consultations with those whites willing to sit round the table.

By the time of Zambia’s independence in 1964, Muriel was a member of Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP). In 1965 she became a Zambian citizen and was elected (unopposed) to the Kitwe city council.

Muriel thereafter remained a confidant of President Kaunda and many cabinet ministers, national and local office holders. She was also a member of the congregational St. Margaret’s church (where she too was treasurer), a member of the United Church of Zambia, and through her church and MEF work a representative at meetings of the All African Council of Churches in Zambia and other countries in Africa.

The MEF continued to run courses of many types, and its Women’s Centre became the seed-bed of the women’s movement in the country. The Young Women’s Christian Association of Zambia was born at Mindolo, and Muriel served as national treasurer for 37 years and represented the Zambia YWCA abroad.

She served as MEF’s Accountant from 1960 to 1976 and, after running a travel agency in Kitwe, returned to the MEF as Financial Controller from 1988 to 1995 (and as Acting Director1991-1992). Bookish, widely read and travelled, with interests in film, tennis, international politics, theater, gardening, and most of all, swimming.

Muriel Sanderson retired in 1995 and relocated to Botswana to live near her sister, niece, nephews and great nephews.

From her home in Gaborone she volunteered her accounting and other talents to the Methodist church and other organisations in Gaborone, and is a life member of the Botswana Society. She, however, remained a proud citizen of Zambia.

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