Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe joined mourners in Botswana on Thursday at the funeral service of former President Ketumile Masire who died last week at the age of 91.
93-year-old Mugabe spoke at the event where he recalled fond memories about the ex-leader who had served Botswana between 1980 and 1998.
“I shall live forever, with Masire in my heart. As I said, I never had a friend as close as Masire in the SADC. He was the closest to me. The closest to my family. My wife and his wife great friends. May he rest in peace,” Mugabe said at the end of his speech.
“Let us remember the road he has walked to walk it, or get our people and children to walk it,” he advised.
The funeral, held at Masire’s home village of Kanye in southern Botswana, was filled with laughter and memories of the jovial second president of Botswana.
Each speech at the funeral elicited laughter from the mourners as the speakers remembered the celebrated leader.
Among the leaders present at the funeral were Botswana President Ian Khama, Lesotho’s King Letsie III, South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Prime Ministers of Swaziland and Lesotho, Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Armando Guebuza (Mozambique), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzanian), Festus Mogae (Botswana) among other dignitaries.
He was remembered for his role in various diplomatic initiatives in Africa, including chairing a panel that investigated the 1994 Rwanda genocide, co-ordinating the Inter-Congolese National Dialogue among other peace initiatives in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Ghana and Swaziland.
Sir Ketumile Masire was buried immediately after the service as hundreds of mourners looked on.
Profile of Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire
Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire was born in July, 1925 in Kanye, southern Botswana to a cattle herding family.
His love for education and academic achievement gained him a scholarship to study at the Tiger Kloof Educational Institute in South Africa where he graduated in 1950.
While teaching in his country, he entered into farming and earned a Master Farmers Certificate in 1957.
Masire also served as a journalist for the African Echo/Naledi ya Botswana newspaper in 1958 when he married his late wife Gladys Olebile Masire who died in 2013 leaving him behind with six children.
He ventured into politics and help found the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which he served as its first secretary-general in 1961.
The party won majority seats in the 1965 legislative elections and later, he became Deputy Prime Minister in 1966 and after independence, the country’s Vice-President and finance minister, serving under Seretse Khama until 1980.
Five days after the death of Seretse Khama on July 18, 1980, Masire was elected president by secret ballot at the National Assembly.
He went on to become chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)and vice chairman of the Organisation of African Unity. He was also chairman of the Global Coalition for Africa and a member of the UN group on Africa Development.
During this period, he earned three Honorary Doctorates of Law (L.L.D.) from two universities in the United States and one in the United Kingdom.
He also earned two Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from two other universities in the United States.
In 1989, he was awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger and the Grand Counsellor of the Royal Order of Sobhuza II in Swaziland.
He was also knighted by the Queen of England in 1991 with the Grand Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George, earning him the title Sir.
Masire also earned Namibia’s Order of the Welwitschia which is one of the highest honours of the land.
He retired as president in 1998 but continued with diplomatic initiatives in Africa including leading the panel that investigated the 1994 Rwanda genocide, co-ordinating the Inter-Congolese National Dialogue among other peace initiatives in South Africa, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Ghana and Swaziland.
Masire set up the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation in 2007 to promote the social and economic well being of Botswana as well as co-founded the Global Leadership Foundation to promote good governance and resolve conflict through mediation.
Sir Ketumile Masire died on June 22, 2017 in a hospital in Botswana’s capital Gaborone after he was hospitalized on June 18.