Outgoing president given unlimited access to F/town
City of Francistown Mayoress Sylvia Muzila recently bestowed the award of Honorary Freedom of the City on the outgoing President Ian Khama.
An ornamental key was handed to the President signalling his status as an honorary citizen of Francistown.
It was a gesture that generally went unnoticed on an extremely chilly day and a poorly attended event.
According to Wikipedia Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by a city council upon a person (or persons) to whom the city wishes to pay tribute.
In medieval times, the title of “freeman” would entitle the bearer to special privileges, such as the right to vote or own property, but few of these privileges are still relevant today; in contemporary society, the granting of the Freedom of the City is seen more as a symbolic gesture.
It is a popular tradition in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
In some countries, esteemed individuals are instead awarded the Key to the City, which usually takes the form of an ornamental key.
In London for instance anyone may apply for it, however, the Honorary Freedom is a much higher honour, and cannot be applied for; individuals must be invited to receive the award by the Court of Common Council.
Notable recipients include William Pitt the Younger, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale and Princess Diana.
In 2013 Cape Town honoured both Barack Obama and Michel Obama as honorary citizens of the coastal city.
The Voice set out to find out what the uncommon gesture by the Francistown Mayor means to Khama and the people of Francistown. According to Muzila, the award which conspicuously went under the radar has a huge significance.
“President Khama as the honorary citizen of this city means he is a part of us. He now holds the master key to unlock any door in this city,” explained Muzila.
The Mayoress said this award means Khama is not only a special citizen but will also have privileges.
“Should he desire to have a business plot, he wouldn’t have to queue like the rest of us,” she said.
Muzila said it is the ultimate respect shown by the people of Francistown to a seating president who has shown tremendous leadership.
“The president is welcome in this city anytime. If he wants to know anything about this city, he should use that key to ask anyone,” she said.
“We have given him the master key to unlock any door in this city of all things precious,” added Muzila to stress the significance of the ornamental key.