By Tafi Mhaka

Back in the 1940s, interracial relationships were anathema to most folks.

Now, if you were like Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama, king of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland  – present day Botswana – what would you do if you fell madly in love with a charming white British girl named Ruth Williams?

Seretse Khama was born in 1921. His father, Sekgoma Khama II, was the paramount chief of the Bamangwato people. His mother was Queen Tebogo. When he was four years old, Seretse ascended to the throne. His uncle, Tshekedi Khama, was appointed as his regent and guardian. 

After graduating from the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, Seretse spent time in Britain studying at Balliol College in Oxford and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple in London. The future barrister met Ruth Williams, a clerk at Lloyd’s of London, in 1947.

Seretse and Ruth dated for a year before tying the knot in London. News of their mixed marriage shocked traditional leaders in Bechuanaland and angered white supremacists in neighbouring South Africa.

Seretse and Ruth left Britain and settled in Bechuanaland. But Seretse was stripped of his authority, and exiled. Later – with Ruth by his side, the deposed king triumphantly returned as a private citizen in 1956.

He went on to become one of Africa’s greatest statesmen ever.

A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, is about Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams’ incredible story.

It was directed by acclaimed British director Amma Asante.

The film is going to open the The 60th BFI London film festival.

The 12-day festival will take place October 5-16 2016


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