You Wanna Botswana? Then Do It Your Goddamn Self.Posted: April 5, 2011
Every so often in the history of mankind, there comes a hugely influential figure who almost single-handedly shapes the fate of millions of people. And even less often, that figures comes with a sexy scandal involving interracial relations before shit was hipper than Williamsburg after a Twin Sister concert lets out. Ok, to be fair, the first president of Botswana, Seretse Khama, didn’t actually do anything wrong. Haterz just gonna hate. But first, to explain:
Seretse Khama, who I like to imagine was affectionately called ‘Sissy’ in his youth, was born in 1921 into a wealthy royal family in Bechuanaland, what is now Botswana (But was, at the time, one of Great Britain’s main protectorate squeezes). He ascended the throne at age 4 after his father died, but mostly spent his youth in South Africa at boarding school, and left his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, in charge as regent. Is it not kosher to make a Lion King association here? Anyway, he snagged a B.A. in S.A., then shipped off to receive some more of that good ol’ white education in the UK to be a barrister (‘Cause what kid doesn’t want to leave his homeland to go to a shitty-ass little island that rains 110% of the days a year, all to be ostracized by the punk-ass little bitches of the fading landed gentry who go into Oxbridge on title rather than talent, just because you’re “not from around here”? Yeah, I see the draw). But Seretse had a trick up his sleeve (or maybe an ace in the hole…) when in 1947, he met Ruth Williams, a white clerk working at Lloyd’s. Now, we could go into some shit about how there’s the white female fascination with “The African Other,” and the “Strong Black Protector,” and I mean, not that Seretse wasn’t an attractive, successful and driven guy… cause, you know, he was, but Ruth was the shit (as most Ruths I know are), and you know gurl didn’t buy that generalized sociological crap for the newspaper it was wrapped in. Before she met Seretse, she had been a lower-middle class, WAAF ambulance driver from one of England’s many dead industry towns. Bitch was tough as last year’s Halloween Twizzlers.
They dated for a year, then got married, but this invoked a shitstorm worse than the ironically and hilariously titled “Buffalo-Chip Hail Storm” of ’09 . Upon hearing of this god-forsaken union, Khama’s uncle
Scar Tshekedi told him to drag his wayward ass back home and get an annulment. Seretse responded by having a bunch of public meetings with Bechuanaland elders, having Ruth come down and having them all fall in love with her (She was known as “Lady K.” Seriouslyhowsweetisthat.), then getting himself reaffirmed as king, and exiling his uncle through popular vote. Khama’s a bitch (Did you see my pun? Did you see it?? Yeah yah did).
Seretse returned to England to try and finish up his degree, but South Africa was feeling like that kid at the 8th grade dance without a partner, and lashed out in their awkward frustration at Seretse having a white girl to slow-dance sway with. Because of apartheid, South Africa banned interracial marriage, and since it and Bechuanaland were butt-buddies, it didn’t want any of that racial tolerance rubbing off, and ordered Seretse to get a divorce or it was gonna declare war or, or at least be very, very pissy (In the form of economic sanctions. Clearly the best form). Now, here’s where we have Papa Britain step in, because while Bechuanaland is a protectorate, South Africa is a colony, and was also worth far more. See, Bechuanaland was one of the poorest countries in Africa (or the world) at the time, so rather than telling South Africa to mind it’s goddamn business, Britain launched an investigation into whether Seretse was fit to rule, aaaaaand, despite the fact he was deemed more than qualified, the verdict was exile from his homeland because of his marriage.
But! This story has a happy ending, because the British people gained a conscience and there was a huge public outcry about the decision, as well as the Bechuanaland people refusing to find a replacement for Seretse. He and Ruth were allowed to return as private citizens to the country in 1956, but Seretse founded the Bechuanaland Democratic Party in 1961, and he won the prime-ministership by a landslide in 1965. Sir got down to business, nabbing the country its independence a year later, the new name of ‘Botswana,’ the presidency, and also a knighthood from that true Giving-Tree, QEII.
During his Presidency, Seretse oversaw massive economic and social reform, and made Botswana the fastest growing economy in the world. His reforms remained after this tenure, and thanks to his administration’s hard stance on political corruption, the government of Botswana has stayed strong and stable since its independence, and continues to try and help the country’s rural poor, improve unemployment through universal education, and battle the HIV/AIDS pandemic with free treatment. Ruth, the bad-asssss bitch that she was, was similarly influential, doing her Eva-Peron-best as a goodwill ambassador around the country and abroad. From her first move to Africa, she referred to herself as a “Motswana,” or native Botswana citizen (Take that England. That’s what you get when you don’t call the next day/exile somebody). After her husband died (in her arms, btw. Seriouslyhowsweetisthat.), she remained in Botswana and became president of the Red Cross there, though she most often worked on the street-level with ordinary citizens.
I mean, come on. Not only were these people too fucking good to be true, they goddamn loved each other enough to shake the staid, British social system and nearly caused a war! Their story inspired multiple film and literary adaptations, including (supposedly), the classic 1967 film, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (for which Katherine Hepburn won a pity Oscar, cause nobody figured she’d live long enough to turn in her far more deserving preformance the following year in The Lion in Winter… WHICH, she incidentally shared with Barbra Streisand, in the first and only tie of Oscar’s history. If anybody tells you different, they’re full of poop, ’cause Fredric March and Wallace Beery were one vote apart in 1932... And that’s tonight’s installment of Academy Award Trivia!).
But seriously, they were like Romeo and Juliet. Except, you know, not a couple of suicidal teenagers.