A black and white photo taken in Lusaka, Zambia in 1980 depicts President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, then Prime Minister, standing directly behind the late Botswana president Sir Seretse Khama.
Also in this group picture are Presidents Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Samora Machel of Mozambique, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Swaziland Prime Minister Mabandla Dlamini and Lesotho’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, M. V. Molapo.
The nine leaders of independent southern African states had gathered in Lusaka on April 1, 1980 to form the Southern African Coordination Conference (SADCC), the forerunner to the Southern African Development Community.
The first chairperson of this new organisation which metamorphosed from the Frontline States would be Sir Seretse Khama although he lived short to see the tree he planted blossom into a community of 15 member states geared towards integrating their economies for a better life of their citizens.
Thirty five years on, President Mugabe visits Gaborone for the SADC Summit and he is intrigued by the fact that the son of the man he stood behind when this organ was formed, President Lt Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, was taking over from him as the new chairperson to lead the region.
Such prompts the 91-year old leader, whose has been there and had seen it all through the ages as southern Africa struggled against apartheid South Africa and of course colonialism to go down memory lane paying tribute to his former colleagues particularly Sir Seretse Khama.
It was from Botswana that we got our inspiration in the Frontline States, said President Mugabe as he narrated the history of the liberation struggle and apartheid South Africa and racial segregation of the colonial governments in the region.
President Mugabe described the cleverly way in which Sir Seretse Khama circumvented the colonial government’s plans to bar him from the chieftainship of the Bangwato for marrying a white person to form a political party that is now the government in power.
I think that is still the party you are leading sir! he said to the appreciation of the delegates of the 35th Summit of Heads of State and Government in Gaborone on Monday.That is the legacy of a fighter. Sorry he did not live long but he left a legacy of freedom for a man to marry whoever he pleases and the breach of apartheid and racialism, added the veteran leader, noting that as I recite your names Lt Gen. Seretse Khama Ian KhamaÂ¦Ian is your own but still Khama. There are two Khamas in you.
He would note great country (Botswana), great father and I am sure that you will be a great successor as he prepared to hand over the SADC baton to President Khama who will lead the organisation that his father co-founded for the next 12 months.
President Mugabe said his visit to Gaborone invoked memories of the liberation struggle, saying the leaders who founded SADC sacrificed a lot for the region as well as the rest of Africa to enjoy freedom and democracy.
Can’t we have a fund, can’t we have trust, something in their name, said President Mugabe as he called for the honouring of SADC’s founding fathers as a way of remembering them for the sacrifices they made to bequeath the region the most sovereign, strongest regional organisation in Africa.
Let us remember those that have endowed us with this legacy, he said and promised to speak to President Khama as incoming chairman about what could be done to achieve such.