With over six decades of distinguished public service the Former President Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, NYB, G.C.M.G., was a chief architect of Botswana’s Democratic Development.
“I wanted to teach. I wanted to communicate information to the people. So I worked as a teacher for six years. I enjoyed teaching everything because I was good at all save for music, because I could not sing.”
Quett Ketumile Joni Masire was born in Kanye on the 23 of July 1925 as the first of Joni Masire and his wife Gabaipone, who was of the Kgopo family.Like most of his male peers he spent much of his early childhood as a herd boy. At the age of thirteen he was able to attend Rachele Primary School, where he displayed a remarkable academic aptitude. As one of the first local students to earn a Government bursary, he was able to continue his studies in South Africa at Tiger Kloof (Old Moeding) secondary school in 1944.In 1946, following the death of his parents, Quett as the first born was confronted with the need to provide for his siblings. This development caused him to forfeit his opportunity to attend University on a further bursary. Instead he acquired a teacher’s certificate.
In 1950 Masire became the first teacher as well as head-teacher of the new Kanye Junior Secondary School (now Seepapitso Senior Secondary School). In the early years he taught eight subjects – Setswana, English, History, Philosophy and Hygiene, Geography, Mathematics, General Science and Music.
In 1950 During this period Masire was also active in wider community affairs, serving as the Secretary of the Bangwaketse Teachers Association and Chairman of the Bangwaketse School Sports Association.
Masire’s passion for teaching continued into his later life, in 1967, when he was already Vice President and Minister of Finance he helped found and taught night classes at the Capital Continuing Classes..
“I wanted to go and teach people innovative methods of farming. People were surprised that a person could leave a respectable profession such as teaching to do something ordinary and common as farming.”
As Vice While still working in education, Masire had maintained his lifelong passion for agriculture, often visiting the then Government’s experimental plots, as well as the then white owned local commercial farms, to expose himself to new ideas.At the end of 1955, having saved enough money to buy his own tractor he left the teaching to become a fulltime farmer.His morden methods of cultivation were initially derided by some. But, big yields silenced the naysayers. In 1957 he became the first indigenous African in the Bechuanaland Protectorate to be awarded a Master Farmer’s Certificate.
From the beginning the new political government was to a great extent a partnership between Seretse’s vision and charisma and Masire’s energy and organisational ability.As the nation’s first Minister of Finance (later Finance and Development Planning) as well as Vice-President, Masire championed a series of robust interventions to elevate Botswana out of its then prevailing status as one of the world’s least developed countries, which in 1966 had an annual per-capita income of only about US$ 60.
Masire succeeded to the Presidency in 1980 with the overwhelming support of his party’s Parliamentary caucus, presiding over the late Sir Seretse’s unfinished term until 1984, when he led his party to victory in his own right. By then he had seen the country through severe drought and an early 1980s slump in diamond sales.Having previously played a leading role in the formation of Debswana as a 50/50 partnership between the Government of Botswana and De Beers, as well as the formation of the Botswana Diamond Valuing Company, in 1982 Masire overcame objection to oversee the conversion of a portion of Botswana diamond stockpiles into a 15% stake in De Beers itself. Masire’s tenure was thereafter characterised by continued high rates of economic growth and social development, marked by Botswana’s rise to middle income status. Indeed, from 1966 to 1998 Botswana enjoyed the highest annual economic growth rate in the world. The resulting rising revenues allowed for further investment in infrastructure and public services, as well as human resource development, with education and health consistently taking the lion’s share of the budget.
If you can come through in a way that we cannot see you, then we will not have seen you.
Sir Ketumile’s legacy goes beyond our borders as during his time as both Vice President and President he also played a key role as one of the leaders of the Frontline states in the liberation of our region from colonialism and Apartheid.
In the early years of independence Masire had been deputised by Khama to engage the exiled leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) and other liberation movements to establish a modus operandi for their discreet movement through Botswana.
’Our official policy was that we did not allow the liberation movements to use Botswana as a springboard to launch military attacks on neighbouring countries. If the ANC managed to infiltrate arms and guerrillas through Botswana, we would claim not to have seen them pass through our country
In 1980 Masire chaired the first meeting held in Arusha to form the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC, later SADC), which succeeded in drafting the nascent organisation’s constitution.Internationally, he chaired the Panel of Eminent Persons that investigated the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was the facilitator of the inter-Congolese Dialogue and the SADC mediator for Lesotho, and most recently Mozambique. Up until the time of his death he remained a respected voice for peace and good governance on the African continent and beyond./span>
After leaving office, Sir Ketumile divided his time between his passion for farming and frequent service as both a domestic and global statesman, often working through his Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation.Lady Olebile Masire passed away on 17 May 2013, Sir Ketumile Masire is survived by four siblings, six children, and twelve grandchildren.