Former president of Botswana, Ketumile Masire, speaks at a press conference in May 2000. Picture: Reuters

Johannesburg – Joaquim Alberto Chissano, a former president of Mozambique, and Chairman of the Africa Forum, has paid tribute to the late Sir Quett John Masire, the former President of Botswana and a member of the Africa Forum, who died recently in Gaborone,.

In a letter to Botswana President Seretse Khama, Masire’s family and the people of Botswana, Chissano wrote: "His Excellency Masire was a natural leader with the capacity to translate the vision for a prosperous nation into reality.

“The name of this remarkable statesman is rightfully viewed as a symbol of a whole era in the modern history of Africa.

“He contributed immensely to the establishment of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 1961, which led Botswana to independence and set up the path for the democratic transformation processes in the country.

“His Excellency Masire served as its first Secretary-General. This highly competent and wise statesman always looked into the future with confidence and he was named as the principal architect, who paved the way for the country’s steady economic growth to result in the independent, self-sustaining Republic of Botswana," Chissano wrote.

“His Excellency Masire is also to be remembered for the pivotal role he played on the continent, namely his leadership in the formation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which he chaired in its formative years as well as, after leaving office, his contribution towards peace and security on the continent as a peace dialogue facilitator for the African Union (AU) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the SADC in Lesotho and numerous others.

“It was no coincidence that this highly educated statesman was awarded, among others, the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1989, the Honorary Knighthood of the Grand Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) in the UK in 1991, and Namibia's Order of the Welwitschia in 1995.

“But above all His Excellency Masire was a humble, selfless man, who truly served his nation and the African people and we shall remember him as going through life with joy and readiness, sometimes with humour.

“He was not greedy for a position but greedy to serve the people. We will never forget his words laced with a sense of humour when he claimed that he is a farmer on loan to politics.

“He will live on in the hearts of the people with his natural sincerity and empathy for his fellow human beings.

“We feel and share the sadness of the entire nation as well as the entire African continent who have lost a prominent figure, a pillar of stability and progress in Africa,” said Chissano.

African News Agency