The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) commander, Lieutenant General Placid Diratsagae Segokgo has written to former President Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama notifying him that he can no longer be allowed to use the Firing Ranges, Obstacle Cause and Animal Parks facilities at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) in Mogoditshane.
In a letter dated 14th June, 2019 the BDF Commander said: “Your Excellency, it has come to our attention that you continue to use the BDF Obstacle Cause at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Mogoditshane. Sir in keeping with the BDF policy to all retired members of the BDF and the general members of the public I write to inform you that this facility together with other facilities such as the Firing Ranges, and Animal Park shall no longer be available to yourself except with the express invitation of the BDF.”
Former President Khama is the former Commander of the armed forces and has served the army for more than 20 years before joining politics, nine of which he was the commander. Khama had enjoyed access to Botswana Defence Force facilities as the Vice President including flying the military aircrafts. The then President Festus Mogae came to his defence saying he [Khama] is a qualified Pilot and arrangements were made for him to continue using the aircrafts.
Khama then ascended to the Presidency on 1st April 2008 and he continued to access the BDF facilities at SSKB without any problems. Upon leaving Office of the President a year ago, former President Ian Khama said prior arrangements were made so that he continue to access the Obstacle Causes once a week to train for his fitness but said he never accessed both the Firing Ranges and the Animal Park ever since he left office.
“I notified both President Masisi and BDF Commander Placid Segokgo and it was agreed,” Khama told WeekendPost this week. Khama said he was shocked by the letter from the BDF Commander. “I wonder why it took him one year and two months to realise that. I have never visited the Animal Park or the Firing Ranges since I left office. I only visit the Obstacle Cause once a week to do my routine exercise,” he said. Khama also said to his surprise these facilities are open to the general public and wonders why he is being singled out.
“With my position as former president and commander of the armed forces, Patron of BDF Retired Officers, Patron of the Football team BDF XI I have a history with the Barracks,” he said. Khama said he has no doubts this has political connotations with regard to the recent political landscape in the country. The former President for the first time this year, he was not invited to the Fallen Heroes Day Commemoration in honour of massacre of soldiers at Lesoma village which took place while he was the deputy commander of the BDF.
Khama was quoted saying: “The way this kind of decision was taken, is very unusual. I would have been invited as former Commander of the army to participate in that event.” He said his routine exercises at BDF does not in anyhow interfere with the works of soldiers at the barracks. Khama said he trains alone and he is not at any risks but admit anything can happen. “If they are concerned about my safety then they did not mention it in the letter. Besides why would they worry now while I have been doing this as a sitting President, why now,” Khama sked rhetorically.
The former President said through his Private Secretary, he wrote back to the Commander Segokgo to correct some of the misconceptions in his letter. Asked what action he will take Khama said, “In the letter it is clear they don’t want me there so I will stop.” In 2013 during his presidency Khama was scratched by a leopard on the face a bit. Khama's attacker was at the Botswana Defense Force Animal Awareness Park, which the Khama himself established in 1989 when he was a Lieutenant General in command of Botswana's armed forces.
He began the park to teach wild animal behaviour to soldiers who were being deployed to fight poachers killing rhinos and elephants. The park, which has been opened to the public and is a favourite outing for school children, now holds lions and leopards, crocodiles and snakes, monkeys, baboons and zebras.
Ian Khama was appointed as a brigadier general at age 24 in April 1977 during Sir Seretse Khama's Presidency, hence Deputy Commander to late former Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, later serving as BDF Commander from 1989 until becoming Vice President in 1998. He then become the President of Botswana on 1st April 2008 leaving office in April 2018.
Upon leaving Office former President Ian Khama he had a fallout with his successor Mokgweetsi Masisi which led to him leaving the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to help form the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). Several attempts were made to reconcile the two men but the fallout escalated and the relationship became irreparable.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.