President’s Day in Botswana is celebrated the third Monday of July each year. The holiday is designed to pay respect to the current and past presidents of the nation.
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History of President’s Day
The first president of Botswana after the country obtained independence was Sereste Khama who took the office on September 30, 1966. He ruled until his death in September 1980 and his son, Ian Khama, assumed the office on April 1, 2008. During his presidency, Sereste Khama developed many policies that led to economic advances in Botswana.
Before 2006, the holiday was an official two-day holiday, but under the Public Holidays Amendment, it became a one-day holiday. However, many businesses and public institutions still celebrate it for two days.
Traditions and Celebrations
There is a military parade and many festivals throughout Botswana in celebration of President’s Day. Music, fashion, sports and dances that represent the diversity of Botswana are also evident throughout the country. Many citizens return to their home villages in order to hear speeches, enjoy traditional dances or sing songs related to their culture.
Sereste Khama was born to Sekgoma Khama II and Queen Tebogo on July 1, 1921. He ascended to the throne as leader of the Bamangwato people at the age of four when his father died in 1925. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, England, before studying at Inner Temple in order to become a barrister. While in England, he met Ruth Williams, an English clerk at Lloyds of London. They married one year later causing an uproar in South Africa where apartheid ruled. In addition to the South African government, the Bamangwato tribe was also angered at his marriage. Sereste Khama made peace with the tribe, but interracial marriage was forbidden under apartheid in South Africa. The South African government exerted pressure to keep Sereste Khama from the throne, exiling him and his wife from Bechuanaland in 1951.
Protests against the South African government’s interference grew in both Bechuanaland and England. In 1956, Sereste and Ruth Khama were permitted to return as private citizens, but Sereste became involved in local politics. In 1961, he founded the Nationalist Bechuanaland Democratic Party which dominated the 1965 elections. He became Prime Minister of Bechuanaland but continued to push for independence which occurred on September 30, 1966. Sereste was appointed president of the new nation. President’s Day in Botswana is held in July in honour of Sereste Khama’s birthday.