Mugabe bids Masire emotional farewell
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe last week delivered an emotional farewell speech for Botswana’s second post-independence President Sir Ketumile Masire, describing him as the only close friend he had ever had in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Speaking at Masire’s funeral in Kanye Village, about 86 kilometres from Gaborone, President Mugabe said former President Masire commanded respect “without ever demanding it”.
“His generosity of spirit was so much a part of his character. He often rolled out a welcome mat to us regardless of the matter at hand. We last came to Kanye in 2013 to mourn the passing of Mme Gladys Masire. Today we come in tears because we feel robbed. We lost a leader who was an asset in many ways,” the Zimbabwean leader said.
In an emotional tone, Mugabe said the people of Zimbabwe will forever remember the sterling role that Masire played in the liberation struggle of the region.
“We all bear witness to the depth of character of Sir Ketumile. He commanded respect without ever demanding it. His generosity of spirit was so much a part of his character.
He often rolled out a welcome mat to us regardless of the matter at hand,” said President Mugabe.
He said ever since Masire took over as president of Botswana when the liberation struggles in South Africa and Namibia were at their peak, Botswana was intimidated by the apartheid regime as he continued to render assistance to the liberation struggle of those countries.
“I have fond memories of working with him in the early days of SADC.
In Zimbabwe there is what we call a national hero. Sir Ketumile was one.
Even on this sombre occasion let us lift the veil that grief has placed on our faces and recognise the wonderful gift of this great man.
Words are all we can summon today to help us cope with our grief,” he said.
“We cry to God to grant us solace; to put his balm upon our wounded hearts and help us soldier on as we follow in his footsteps.
Why why why was he taken from us? A great friend he was. A hilarious laugh he had.
President Masire was a great man who is lost to Botswana, southern Africa and the whole continent.
“Let us look at the road he has walked and perhaps walk it as well. I am glad you are giving him a state funeral and many of us who worked with him are here to bid him farewell.
This is the last comradeship he could ever ask for.”
President Mugabe added: “I shall live forever with Masire in my heart. He was my closest friend in SADC. My wife and his wife were great friends.
May his soul rest in peace.”