The Commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo has revealed that they were misled when personnel and equipment were deployed to build an airstrip on the former President Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s private compound in Mosu.
The construction saw public funds being used on private property. The airstrip belongs to the former president but was fenced and maintained by Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) at a cost to government. This is consistent with the past practice of providing safe landing facilities to the sitting Head of State and cannot amount to inequitable action nor maladministration, Segokgo told Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week.
Segokgo said prior to the building of the air strip, they were not aware that it formed part of Khama’s compound. “Our understanding was that, it was not a private land [where the airstrip was built] because it was not in the fenced compound,” he said before adding. “The discussions were held but as BDF we are responsible for comfort of the sitting head of state. By then it didn’t ring bell on us because we have done similar thing for the past presidents.”
Asked about the practice of having a sitting president flying BDF aircrafts, Sekgogo said it possible since president is also a member of the army as the Commander-in-chief. Until he left presidential office, Khama has been flying BDF aircrafts both during his tenure Vice President and President respectively. Upon assuming office, Masisi instructed the BDF to not allow Khama to fly BDF aircrafts but to be offered VIP status every time he is on board. When quizzed about the memo, Segokgo said: “There is no command relationship between him [Khama] and us.”
BDF ADMITS OWING EX-SOLDIERS
Segokgo has conceded before the PAC that indeed they owe hundreds if not thousands of former soldiers amounting exceeding P60 million. “We owe them a number of things including leave days and pension. We have looked at the matter and we have paid significant number and others are yet to be paid because e are having a difficulty in finding some files,” he said. It is said because of the constant deployment, soldiers were not allowed to take their leave days which were increased from 90 to 120 days.
BDF Commander indicated that defense pension fund is modeled the same way as other civil servants, which naturally creates a problem for the army men. “But the retirement age is 55 for officers and 47 for lower ranks whilst other civil servants can go until 60 years which mean soldiers spend most time on retirement. This is the reason why soldiers demand a better package when they leave the job,” said Segokgo.
He admitted that former soldiers have the ability to destabilise the country if their concerns are not addressed. Segokgo however could not state the exact amount owed to the soldiers. Segokgo went on to disclose that they are currently still assessing which fighter jets to procure. He said they are taking into considerations the characteristics and affordability. Already, he said, they are looking at T50 jets and Mid 29 jets among others.
The fighter jets are expected to costs the government P15 billion ($1.7 billion). BDF is still negotiating with several governments and aircraft manufacturers around the world in search of affordable aircraft options. The aircraft acquisition is part of a force modernization programme that also includes the replacement of old troop carriers, transporters, tanks, armored vehicles, light weapons and aerial Defence systems.
BUDGET COMPROMISE BDF DEFENCE CAPABILITIES
Segokgo told PAC that the country’s procurement system and the budgeting system are hampering the army’s defence capabilities. He contended that since Botswana’s fiscal year runs only for 12 months, where they are expected to spend their budget, both recurrent and development within that period, it has proved difficunt for the army to utilise its development budget within that period.
“Because of the nature of the army, it takes a longer time, up to four years to procure defence capabilities that we need, but the budgeting system does not allow us since we are compelled to return unused funds at the beginning of every financial year,’ he said. Segokgo said, a longer budget period will allow BDF to meet its needs. PAC member, Ndaba Gaolathe concurred with Segokgo, indicating that it is absolutely necessarily to have longer budgeting period of 2-3 years.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.
The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.
Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa
A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.
COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”
According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.
“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”
Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”
Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.
Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.
“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.
For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.
“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.
Letlhakeng:TotalEnergies Botswana today launched a Road Safety Campaign as part of their annual Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM), in partnership with Unitrans, MVA Fund, TotalEnergies Letlhakeng Filling Station and the Letlhakeng Sub District Road Safety Committee during an event held in Letlhakeng under the theme, #IamTrafficToo.
The Supplier Relationship Management initiative is an undertaking by TotalEnergies through which TotalEnergie annually explores and implements social responsibility activities in communities within which we operate, by engaging key stakeholders who are aligned with the organization’s objectives. Speaking during the launch event, TotalEnergies’ Operations and HSSEQ, Patrick Thedi said, “We at TotalEnergies pride ourselves in being an industrial operator with a strategy centered on respect, listening, dialogue and stakeholder involvement, and a partner in the sustainable social and economic development of its host communities and countries. We are also very fortunate to have stakeholders who are in alignment with our organizational objectives. We assess relationships with our key stakeholders to understand their concerns and expectations as well as identify priority areas for improvement to strengthen the integration of Total Energies in the community. As our organization transitions from Total to Total Energies, we are committed to exploring sustainable initiatives that will be equally indicative of our growth and this Campaign is a step in the right direction. ”
As part of this campaign roll out, stakeholders will be refurbishing and upgrading and installing road signs around schools in the area, and generally where required. One of the objectives of the Campaign is to bring awareness and training on how to manage and share the road/parking with bulk vehicles, as the number of bulk vehicles using the Letlhakeng road to bypass Trans Kalahari increases. When welcoming guests to Letlhakeng, Kgosi Balepi said he welcomed the initiative as it will reduce the number of road incidents in the area.
Also present was District Traffic Officer ASP, Reuben Moleele, who gave a statistical overview of accidents in the region, as well as the rest of the country. Moleele applauded TotalEnergies and partners on the Campaign, especially ahead of the festive season, a time he pointed out is always one with high road statistics. The campaign name #IamTrafficToo, is a reminder to all road users, including pedestrians that they too need to be vigilant and play their part in ensuring a reduction in road incidents.
The official proceedings of the day included a handover of reflectors and stop/Go signs to the Letlhakeng Cluster from TotalEnerigies, injury prevention from tips from MVA’s Onkabetse Petlwana, as well as bulk vehicle safety tips delivered from Adolf Namate of Unitrans.
TotalEnergies, which is committed to having zero carbon emissions by 2050, has committed to rolling out the Road safety Campaign to the rest of the country in the future.