Seretse and Ruth Khama: A mixed-race marriage that overcame all odds

Seretse and Ruth Khama: A mixed-race marriage that overcame all odds

- Seretse and Ruth Khama met in Britain, fell in love, and got married

- Their love encountered opposition in Britain, Botswana, and neighbouring apartheid South Africa

- However, it overcame all odds and has become one of the world's greatest love stories

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The enduring marriage between Seretse and Ruth Khama, the former President and First Lady of Botswana, is powerful proof that love can overcome racial barriers.

Seretse Khama was a Law student in London, Britain, when he met Ruth Williams, the daughter of a retired British army officer, in 1947.

Seretse was the heir to his community's chieftaincy back home in Botswana, then known as Bechuanaland. The two fell in love and got married in 1948.

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However, their love encountered immediate difficulties in Britain because of their different racial backgrounds.

For instance, reports that landlords refused to rent their properties to a mixed-race couple like them.

Back in Bechuanaland, Seretse's uncle, Tshekedi Khama, demanded that he should divorce Ruth or be barred from becoming chief.

Seretse famously returned with Ruth and won over his people's support for his marriage. He was also confirmed as chief.

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Seretse and Ruth's marriage also shook the neighbouring Union of South Africa, which had just passed laws establishing apartheid.

The apartheid regime was concerned that their marriage could inspire mixed-race marriages in South Africa, gathered.

It therefore lobbied Britain, which was Bechunaland's colonial power, to force Seretse into exile in Britain in 1951.

Fortunately, Britain distanced itself from South Africa's racist apartheid stance five years later. This allowed Seretse and Ruth to return to Bechuanaland.

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Seretse soon became the leader of Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP), which won elections in 1965. He then became his country's Prime Minister.

When Bechuanaland won independence from Britain in 1966, it changed its name to Botswana. Seretse Khama became its first president, with Ruth as First Lady.

The couple had four children, Jacqueline, Ian (who later became Botswana's president), and twins Anthony Paul and Tshekedi Khama.

Seretse passed away in 1980 and Ruth in 2002. Seretse summed up how their love broke racial barriers:

But in matters of love the heart is seldom ruled by skin colouring. She did love me, and I knew that this was the woman I wanted for my wife – the woman I wanted to be my helpmate in bringing guidance and knowledge to my people in Bechuanaland.

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