The new Commander of Botswana Defense Force (BDF), Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo could leave the army in two years if his contract is not extended by the head of state at the time.
Segokgo was bestowed the commandership of BDF by President Ian Khama and his predecessor, Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe on Thursday morning, beneath the celebratory sonic boom of F-5 fighter jets.
Segokgo officially donned his three star Lieutenant General rank on Friday.
By his own admission, he is two years junior to the outgoing commander, Lt Gen. Galebotswe who retired after reaching the mandatory military retirement age of 55.
Segokgo is likely to stand down as commander of BDF in the third or fourth quarter of 2018.
While the BDF will routinely be categorical with revealing the age of a high ranking commanding general, Segokgo places himself at the age of 53 and if his contract is not extended by the head of state when he reaches the retirement age of 55, he will be one of BDF commanders to have served the shortest of periods as commander of the army. Galebotswe served as BDF commander for the past four years.
Retired Lt Gen Tebogo Masire is the only BDF commander to have his contract extended by the President. Masire took over from Lieutenant General Matshwenyego Fisher in 2006 and his contract was extended for two years when he reached the retirement age of 55.
President Ian Khama who is also former BDF commander, retired from service at the age of 45 to make his leap into politics. Khama allegedly became a one star Brigadier General at the age of 24 and continues to hold the record of the youngest Brigadier General in the world.
Ironically, Segokgo and Galebotswe were in the same Officer Cadet Serial 3 of 1983, otherwise known as ‘The Golden Class’. The two Lieutenant Generals can even be seen sitting side by side in photographs of Officer Cadet Serial 3 of 1983. The Golden Class included Lt Gen Placid Segokgo himself, Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe, Brigadier Otumiseng Tseleng, Brigadier Mukani Mokobi, Colonel Philip Lebele and Lt Col Geoffrey Mosimaneotsile among others.
Other high ranking military men from The Golden Class include the now Deputy Commander Major General Gotsileene Morake, Brigadier Lawrence Rapula, retired Brigadier George Tlhalerwa, Brigadier Cullen Nkele, and Brigadiers Seretse, Jansen and Kethibogile.
It would seem Segokgo and Galebotswe have always been close as one Brigadier Lawrence Rapula describes that, in a football match against BDF XI, Galebotswe once traded the manning of the goal posts to Segokgo, to lead the strike force against the opponents and in the end they thrashed BDF XI 2-0.
The incoming commander stated in his speech at the change of command that his focus “as commander of BDF shall be in the five key areas of capability, improvement of our conditions of service, the finalization of the BDF Act review as well as the provision of ready trained forces underpinned by our values.”
Segokgo further highlighted that his pivot as commander will be toward the welfare of soldiers, stating that: “no military can ever provide a credible defence deterrent without taking care of its people. The welfare of our nation’s troops should remain an enduring principle of our defense strategy.”
He also continued that: “young Batswana continue to join the BDF because they are convinced of the underlying ideals of our country-a free and democratic people committed to the national principles of democracy, development, self-reliance and unity. As the BDF we must ensure that these ideals are exemplified by rewarding the patriotism and loyalty of our men and women in uniform and their civilian counterparts with a defence force committed to their conditions of service.
Segokgo inherits BDF from a man who according to praises heaped upon him, is one of the most outstanding military men BDF has produced in its 33 years of existence.
Even though he was catapulted to the position of BDF commander in a strange twist of fate, Galebotswe has been described as a man of impressive cognitive and physical abilities. George Tlhalerwa stated of Galebotswe: “In such an environment, naturally certain individuals started to stand out because of their special traits which we didn’t understand to be leadership traits at the time. He was one of the strongest in the intake and would always help others during speed marches, which were often 10 to 60 kilometers by carrying their backpacks or riffles including his own load.”
As a Special Forces instructor, when students were dropped off to do a 60 kilometer march, it is said that Galebotswe had a knack to do the march with the students and not proceed to the camp with other instructors in vehicles.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.