Se Ke Seromamowa Sa Botswana

Another Royal visit - my moment as crown prince

In early 1984 we were visited by HRH Prince Charles. He came to Botswana as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which had several large projects running around the country. It wasn't exactly a royal visit, as these things go: more a kind of official five day tour. But this was only two years or so after "The Wedding" and even though Botswana had had no national television service to relay the pictures in July 1981 there was still plenty of public interest in the Queen's son. It certainly involved considerable extra work by my already hard-pressed technical staff, who had to set up public address and other broadcasting facilities wherever the royal visitor was entertained.

On the morning of his departure, I was a little surprised to receive a summons to go to the British High Commission at 9 am and meet Prince Charles after he'd said goodbye to H.E. President Masire. The Royals like to thank the officials who have smoothed their visits and I had been invited along with a few others like the Mayor of Gaborone, the Permanent Secretary to the President and so on. It was really my staff who'd made most of the arrangements so I felt a bit of a cheat but in one of the reception rooms of the High Commission we all chatted together over coffee for about three-quarters of an hour. Eventually an aide-de-camp put his head round the door and suggested that it really was time for the Prince to leave, since he was twenty minutes late already.

At that point a minor panic ensued. Protocol demanded that I and one or two other people should precede the Prince by racing down to the airport in order to "greet" him when he arrived. I was also anxious to ensure that the public address arrangements were satisfactory, because a farewell speech was planned. The trouble was, my Radio Botswana car and driver had been boxed in by the subsequent arrival of dignitaries like the head of the Botswana Defence Force and the Commissioner of Police, not to mention Prince Charles's official entourage.

To help out, the Mayor of Gaborone (whom I happened to know very well because we were both in the Gaborone Rotary Club!) invited me to share his official limousine. And so it was that a crowd of several thousand, expecting to see the Prince of Wales as he drove down the Mall, were delighted to cheer and shout as they saw the great man in the back of the Mayoral car - complete with flags, police outriders, screaming escort and waves from the Mayor. The only problem was - it wasn't the Prince in the back, it was me. Well, we are both almost the same age (although of course I don't look it, sweetie), and you don't get a lot of white hitch-hikers in the Mayoral car. Quite what the crowd thought a few minutes later when the real Prince Charles appeared, I've never dared to ask. But Prince Charles flew safely out from the capital half an hour later and I had a story to tell at dinner parties for years to come.

The programme for Prince Charles's visit

Last day of Prince Charles's visit

Last 24 hrs of Prince Charles's visit

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