Source: Masire statesman par excellence: President | The Herald June 30, 2017
From Levi Mukarati in KANYE, Botswana—
The death of former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire has robbed Africa of a great statesman who served with valour and honour, President Mugabe has said.
The President said in Sir Ketumile he had lost a personal friend and neighbour.
President Mugabe was addressing mourners yesterday during the burial of Botswana’s second post-independence President.
Sir Ketumile died in Gaborone last week aged 91.
“President Masire, we are resting a great, great, great man today,” said President Mugabe. “It is a loss not just to Botswana, not just Sadc, but to the whole African continent.
“Let us look at the road he has walked and perhaps to walk it or get our people, our children to walk it.”
President Mugabe said he was glad Sir Ketumile was given State assisted funeral.
“I am here to bid him farewell, it is the last comradeship that he could ever enjoy wherever he is and when he looks back he will certainly say this is how much the people, other people, recognise my deeds,” he said.
“And I am here not just to pay tribute on my singular behalf, but on that of my country, that of many other people.
“In Sadc we have lost a great leader indeed and I want to say to Your Excellences that Sir Ketumile Joni Masire is what we would call in Zimbabwe a national hero. May God rest him in perfect and eternal peace; and may God give solace to his family; and may God continue to comfort us all.”
President Mugabe described Sir Ketumile as his best friend.
“I shall continue to live with Masire forever in my heart,” he said.
“As I have said, I never had a friend as close as Masire. He was the closest, closest to my family, my wife and his wife were great friends.
“The death of Sir Ketumile Masire has not only robbed Botswana of a great leader, but also Southern Africa and our entire continent of the great statesman who served with valour and honour,” President Mugabe said.
“He gave us both pride and confidence to work with him as a neighbour, colleague and friend.”
President Mugabe said he was returning to Kanye on yet another sad occasion.
He visited the town for the burial of Sir Ketumile’s wife, Gladys, in 2013.
“The late Sir Ketumile Masire’s resoluteness in fighting for the betterment of the people of Botswana will forever remain etched in our minds and I am sure in the minds of each and every Motswana,” he said.
“His persistence and perseverance in the fight for economic development of Botswana helped in laying the foundations of economic transformation that the country continues to experience today.”
President Mugabe said Sir Ketumile played a major role in bringing peace on the continent.
“The people of Zimbabwe will forever remember the sterling role that the late former President Masire played in the liberation struggles of our region,” he said. “When he took over as President of Botswana in July 1980, there were liberation struggles in South Africa and Namibia.
“President Masire’s actions rendered the apartheid regimes into submission, as Botswana continued to render assistance to the liberation movements of those countries.”
President Mugabe said he had fond memories of having worked with Sir Masire in the formative stages of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, now Sadc.
Sir Ketumile, who was Botswana’s President from 1980 to 1998, died in hospital in Gaborone last week from surgery complications.
He is credited for mediation efforts in Kenya, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The burial was also attended by Lesotho’s King Letsie III, former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia), Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Armando Guebuza (Mozambique) and incumbent South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Senior government officials from the region also represented their countries.
President Mugabe returned home yesterday.