Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Address to the Assembly of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa by H.E. The former President Sir Ketumile Masire

source: Republic of Botswana (22/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 22 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


The UCCSA President, Mr. Andre September UCCSA General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Prince Dibeela Officers of the Denomination Members of the Assembly

1. I am most delighted to have been invited to speak at the opening of this 35th Assembly of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). I have been associated with the UCCSA all my life; my parents were members of this Church, and my faith was nurtured at an early age in the UCCSA, then known as the London Missionary Society. I am an old Tiger; I did my studies at the Tigerkloof Institute where I qualified as a teacher.

2. I cherish very much not just the education I got from Tigerkloof, but the character formation I got from there too. Our education system was very encompassing. Yes, we devoted our time to a high standard of academic education, but our educational experience also involved a number of vocational programmes such as horticulture, piggery, milk production, sports and public speaking. At the end of one's education one did not just have a certificate but one also had practical and life skills with which one could readily face the challenges of life.

3. This is quite a contrast to the way the education system has gone these days. I wish to challenge you, the UCCSA, to consider how you can partner with Government in re-modelling our education system such that we can educate the next generation for life and not just for prestige.

4. You currently run schools such as Moeding College and Maun Secondary School in Botswana, Indanda Seminary in South Africa, Dombodema, Inyati and Hope Fountain in Zimbabwe. Is it possible for us as a Church to raise the level of discipline and diversity of programmes and create pride in our students at these Institutions? In the past our region benefited greatly from Mission education and I implore us to revitalize that legacy as we tackle the many challenges that face us today.

5. Members of the Assembly, when we were at Tigerkloof Institution we had varied experiences, which have had an indelible mark on me as a person. We had to have regular prayers and a time of worship was part of the structure and the life of the school.

6. I, along with others had the privilege of belonging to the Young Christian Association and very much enjoyed the opportunities of preaching in the school Chapel and visiting the neighbouring farming communities to share the word of God. These experiences left within me a value system that would inform how I would do things later in life; especially as Vice President and later as President of the Republic of Botswana. I credit my success as a person to the upbringing

7. I received from my parents but also from the spiritual formation that was part of my educational experience. I am therefore convinced that head knowledge on its own is not sufficient for anyone of us. We also need spiritual attributes such as fear of God, respect for ourselves, others and their property, hard work, determination and humility in what we do. These attributes are inculcated through training. They don't just fall on us.

8. Members of the Assembly, the Theme of the Assembly is "In Christ there is a Future, hope in the midst of an economic crisis." We welcome you to our humble land Botswana where we have in the past few months experienced this 'economic crisis' first hand. As you would know our economy is heavily dependent on mining, especially diamonds. However, this economic meltdown has led to a decline in the sales of diamonds globally. The result is that our mines have had to slow down production and in some cases layoff workers or shut down completely.

9. The impact of this has been astronomical as in most cases the miner has a few people who depend solely on that one salary that the miner gets. We are therefore delighted that your theme speaks to this crisis, but also that it calls us to place our hope in Christ.

10. We cannot afford to fold our arms and feel sorry for ourselves, we have to probe and search for alternative ways of how to feed our children and continue with life.

11. I have always been a farmer, even though I have only had to do it part-time whilst I was on national duty. I believe that the earth has more potential for our livelihood than we realize. It is my conviction that we have enough land to feed our nations as the people of Southern Africa. Whilst the mining sector has served us well, this 'economic crisis' is a wake-up call to all of us to go back and till the land, rear cattle, sheep, chickens, ostriches and other livestock.

12. We have to get our pride back and not look to the overseas markets to start normalizing before we return to life as we know it. God has given us brains, hands, land and other resources to feed our communities, our nations and ourselves. I appeal especially to the young who aimlessly roam our cities and towns whilst our fields lie fallow for years without any production on them. You have the capacity to change our reality of hunger, unemployment and despair. With the grace of God, you can do it.

13. When I was President I had an incident which tested my faith, and to which I look back to with much gratitude to God. We were flying over Angola going to a Southern Africa Development Community Meeting when our flight was shot at. You will remember that at that time Angola had a civil war between Savimbi's rebel group and the government of President Edwardo Dos Santos.

14. As you can imagine it was a very traumatic experience and I was injured in that incident and had to spend a considerable amount of time seeing various doctors and specialists to help me recuperate. However, the amazing thing about this experience is that our pilot was able to find a strip of land wherein he landed the plane. I knew then as I have always known that God's love and grace is amazing, and is renewed towards us mortals every morning. We were rescued from what could have been certain death. I even remember the President of Angola saying to me "even though I do not believe in God, I do not know what this is if not a miracle that you have lived to tell the story".

15. Members of the Assembly, when I retired from public life in 1998 my friend and colleague the late President Julius Nyerere told me that I was going to be busier than when I was President. Well, he was correct. I have been involved in many international missions to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and many other places. In these places, I have mostly been involved as a facilitator in peace talks but also shared experiences on democracy and good governance issues, from our perspective as Batswana. I thank God that he has given me good health to continue to offer my humble service to my country and the people of Africa. I am also thankful to my wife and my entire family for their support and partnership all these years. I thank you.

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