Forced To Give Up The Throne For Marrying A British! The Untold Sacrifice Of Seretse Khama – Botswana’s First President

Love transcends distance, knowing no barriers or skin tones.

This love story even though faced with staggering harsh conditions managed to weather the storm, securing a place as one of the world’s most enduring beautiful true-life love stories.

 

Batswana politician Sir Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama GCB, KBE, the first President of Botswana, 1966 – 1980 left an indelible legacy as a credible revolutionary leader. Before then in 1948 he wedded a British Ruth Williams, at a time when
Interracial unions was highly frowned upon by the National Party government in South Africa as well as among the British. An African chief of one of the most important tribes, he would later be banned from chieftaincy for five years and forced to give up his throne by the British, both families didn’t take the union well, but this would serve as laying the foundation for the country’s independence.

 

Born in 1921 into an influential royal family, of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana), he had the privilege of being educated abroad in neighboring South Africa and in the United Kingdom where he met Ruth Williams, a white woman at the London Missionary Society dance while studying law in London in the summer of 1947 through Ruth’s sister. Ruth at the time was working as a clerk at Lloyd’s and within a year, the lovebirds were married in 1948 amidst controversy. Fear of how this interracial marriage would rub up on the British labour government which was in huge debt after World War 2, in view of international relations, as South Africa whom the British government was looking for favors from had just passed a bill against mixed marriages owing to dictates from the apartheid system, this ignited the ban from the chieftainship and the territory of the Bamangwato.

 

Although attempts to call the British government to order were pursued as many groups protested against the decision, dubbing it British racism, the decision in 1951 to have Khama exiled held and he
was only allowed to return in 1956, after which he became active in politics. He founded, the nationalist Bechuanaland Democratic Party, and in 1962 was restored to the chieftainship in 1963.

After becoming Prime Minister of Bechuanaland, in 1965, Khama pushed for Botswana’s independence, and on September 30, 1966, Botswana gained its independence, with Khama elected its first President. The country, under his leadership witnessed phenomenal growth, from the second poorest to becoming the fastest growing economy in the world from 1960 to 1980.

The couple was happily married until Khama passed away on July 13, 1980, at age 59 from cancer. Ruth passed on aged 78 of throat cancer in 2002. Their love story, one of the world’s most beautiful true love stories will later help lift the ban on interracial marriages as well as later inspire the 2016 biographical film, A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

Their union produced one daughter, Jacqueline, and three sons, Ian and twins Anthony Paul and Tshekedi Khama. His son, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, twenty-eight years after his father’s death became the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana from 1 April 2008 to 1 April 2018.

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