This month sees the release of a film about a couple who were pivotal in making Botswana the amazing country it is today, we’re talking about ‘A United Kingdom’ the true love story of Sir Seretse Khama and his British wife, Ruth.
On paper, theirs was a love that could not succeed. He was an African prince, heir to the throne of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and she was an English office clerk. Neither their families nor the British and South African governments approved of their interracial relationship – but this was not to stop them. Against all odds, they remained true to their love and married in 1948, defying their nearest and dearest, and the British and South African governments. The couple were exiled from Bechuanaland by the British government and only returned in 1956 after he had renounced his claim to the throne. After a brief and unsuccessful stint at cattle farming, the popular Sir Seretse became heavily involved in politics and was instrumental in pushing for independence from Britain. This was achieved on 30 September 1966 and Sir Seretse Khama became the first President of an independent Botswana with Ruth at his side.
At the time of independence Botswana was the world’s third poorest country. Between 1966 and 1980, this landlocked country was the world’s fastest growing economy and by the mid 70s had a budget surplus. The government used these revenues to heavily invest in the expansion of infrastructure, health care, and the education system, resulting in further economic development making it an African success story.
Today their son Ian Khama is the president of Botswana. He was elected in 2009 and then re-elected in 2014. Amongst his many achievements as President is the banning of trophy hunting – visitors to Botswana may only shoot with a camera, conserving wildlife and the delicate balance of nature for future generations. Alongside mining and beef exports, tourism remains one of Botswana’s major revenue earners.