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One of the Giants of Our Time - By Dr. Jane Nannono

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Sir Ketumile Masire , one of the founding fathers of our great nation: Botswana,  has been laid to rest at his humble home in Kanye, south of Gaborone today 29th June 2017. He died almost a month shy of his 92 nd birthday.

 

Botswana is my second home having worked and lived there for twenty one years as a medical doctor. For all these years, I had the rare privilege of being taken and accepted as a daughter in his family. This happened because my youngest sister, Gladys, went to the then Kianda College of Nairobi , Kenya  with Gaone and they became very good friends. Gaone is the oldest of his six children.

 

 When I relocated to Botswana I took over the friendship. So for me this pragmatic and prudent Manager of our country was Rra Gaone and his beautiful wife, Gladys was Mma Gaone.

 

I remember calling Gaone to advise me of their favourite drink so that I could take it to them on the first visit. By Ugandan culture, an adult cannot visit her parents empty –handed. To my amazement and amusement, Gaone told me that her father’s favourite drink was Rooibos tea served with honey and  that is what I used to take with me each time I visited them. I could add things like juice, biscuits, on top. They always received them with so much love and gratitude.

 

When I was involved in a nearly fatal Road traffic accident in january1998, Rra Gaone  found time to visit me in the intensive care unit of the Gaborone Private Hospital and left  a big bouquet of flowers and a Get Well Soon  card for me. Later when I was moved back to the surgical ward, Mma Gaone came over several times in the afternoons to watch over me. I later came to know them better as we celebrated weddings and important anniversaries together. On such occasions, Rra Gaone would enjoy freedom and fun by turning into a wise Fool. He could tell funny tales  and jokes and throw us into fits of laughter.

 

I remember one time when he found me without a drink and asked me what I could take. He insisted that I took something so I asked for water. He went inside the house and came back with a jug of water and two glasses. He poured some water and took a sip before filling my glass. He explained to me that was what the Tswana culture demanded. One other story of his that I found extremely interesting was how he had fallen suddenly ill and found himself in a hospital bed on his wedding day in 1957. He insisted that the wedding went ahead in that hospital room and tea was served to a few relatives and hospital staff!

 

He was a hands on father who always attended  PTA meetings at his children’s schools and  the Class days to monitor the children’s progress at school and later their graduations. He was in their children’s lives and they were in his too. He strongly supported the newly formed  Maru-a-Pula School in Gabarone and the University of Botswana.

 

  In the home, there was order and harmony and each one looked out for the other. There was no ambiguity about the core values and principles; Sunday morning was worship day at the nearest local church followed by the family lunch organized by all. He instilled in all his children discipline and the duty to serve others without expecting any reward and the need to keep improving themselves.

 

Many of his children especially Gaone have numerous friends but both  Rra Gaone and Mma Gaone took great interest in them and got to know them better. Many times they visited London, they would call or look up my sister, Gladys.

In later life, he was happiest with the grandchildren and learned a lot from them especially about the internet and social media. He remained a consistent and principled gentleman.

 

In May 2013, sadly he lost his beloved wife of fifty six years. It was very tough on him but as the seasoned Warrior, he gradually found it in himself to continue with his life. He immersed himself in beef cattle farming, read many books, travelled to promote his Memoirs and to promote peace worldwide. He was on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that awards the world’s most valuable individual award: The Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership.

 

The last family occasion I attended before returning to Uganda; was the celebration of his 90th Birthday on 23 July 2015. It was a well-organized function by the children and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

 

Originally he was a teacher then a journalist so throughout his life he taught, he served he mentored and sponsored many and made the world a better place. He always explained, demonstrated but most of all, he inspired us to want to do good and be better people.

 

I for one learned from him that when you wear the apron of humility and served others without expecting returns, God lifts you up.  Rra Gaone was an epitome of humility and service to others. With beloved Gladys by his side, they were a force to reckon with.

 

Secondly I learned that a stable and secure family is the main anchor in life: it gives you wings to fly wherever you want to go but always beckons you for nurturing and refilling your emotional tank.

 

Gaone and all, Rra Gaone left you an inheritance of principles and core values, an attitude of gratitude and a positive attitude about life to sustain your future. Make the most of it.

 

As he was being laid to rest, we all celebrated a life so well lived that it earned him a secure place in the annals of our Country’s history. We thank God for he lived long enough to see Botswana rise and shine as a great nation.

Both Rra Gaone and Mma Gaone will live on in their children, in our hearts and in all that they created with a lot of love and commitment.

 

Last but not least I leave you with this quote by George Martin: “ He was definitely a father figure for all of us. Once you were a giant, you were always a giant.’’

 

Rra Gaone , Robala ka Kagiso: Rest In Peace.

 

Sir Ketumile (left) celebrating Lady Gladys's 80th birthday. The daughter Gaone is standing. (Photo by Dr. Jane Nannono, 2012)

 
Lady Gladys Olebile Masire cutting the cake at her 80th birthday party surrounded by their grand children. (Photo by Dr. Jane Nannono, 2012)

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