‘A People Without a Past is a People Without a Soul’: Sir Seretse Khama’s Vision of the Development of Botswana

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David Magang


In my 2006 autobiography, The Magic of Perseverance, I introduce Chapter Six with an epigraph in the form of a quote attributed to Sir Seretse Khama, our founding President, to set the tone for what is to unfold. The quotes says, ‘A nation without a culture is a nation without a soul’. As rational, insightful, and truthful as the quote sounds, it is not accurate at all, a fact that dawned on me at a time when the book had long left the presses and now loomed large on the display racks in the local bookshops. It’s not that I phrased the quote wrongly or erroneously: I was simply misled by some scribe who had invoked it in a piece and whose credentials, at least prima facie, seemed above board. Yet that is not to absolve myself entirely of all blame. Had I read much more widely and, therefore, known history better, or had I not omitted to have the quote cross-checked by other historians of note such as Neil Parsons, Christian John Makgala, or Jeff Ramsay, I would have no doubt nailed it.

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