The allocation of the highest share in the 2016/17 development budget at 24% to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security has created an outrage from the business community and other stakeholders with leader of opposition Duma Boko accusing government of having a ‘security neurosis’. Addressing a press briefing Boko said that the current government is creating an arms race within the region as other Southern African countries will feel threatened by the huge spending by a rather peaceful country. “We are invoking an arms race within the region and increasingly becoming a security threat,” said the MP for Gaborone Bonnington North.
Taking a jab at President Ian Khama whose brothers have been associated with Botswana Defence Force (BDF) multimillion tenders Boko said that the huge military spending was part of looting the state its money through companies owned by relatives and friends of the current leaders. President Khama’s twin brothers Tshekedi and Anthony Khama are the directors of Seleka Springs - a company that used to win multimillion tenders at BDF. The company has raked in over P100 million from acting as agents for companies doing business with Botswana Defence Force (BDF) since 1989.
Presenting the budget Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Mathambo said that the ministry of Defence takes the largest share of the proposed budget, mainly to cater for provision of defence equipment, communication equipment and infrastructure, in order to improve Botswana Defence Force’s defence capabilities. Boko said that the military equipment will just stay without being used and be disposed later which cost the countries billions of money. He said that the money could have been used to deal with challenges of drought currently facing the country.
“We are in a severe drought. Food prices will go up and many households that subsist at the margin of poverty and those that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods will slip into even more grinding poverty,” hit out Boko, adding that it is surprising that the issue does not even merit mention despite its devastating consequences for the welfare of significant sections of the society. Boko, who is also the President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), said that they are going to oppose the budget proposal by the ministry of defence, Justice and Security especially the budget for BDF.
Meanwhile Business Botswana has also raised concern about the huge defence spending. “It is doubtful whether spending in the 2016 budget focuses on high return projects because of the lack of cost benefit analysis. As a result spending in some cases does not seem to be carefully prioritised to ensure prudent spending of scarce resources. A typical example is the fifty percent (50%) increase in the defence spending when everything is squeezed,” said the business conglomerate.
One of the reasons given for high military expenditure is that BDF equipment is worn out and needs to be replaced. According to sources within the BDF high command, the army is in dire needs of new aircraft as currently they are operating 14 F-5s, F-5A fighter jets and F-5D trainers they bought from Canada in 1996. “You see in times of peace, you prepare for war and in times of war you fight to prepare for peace,” said a senior army officer. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report in 2015 Africa spent US$ 50.2 billion on military expenditure with Angola and Algeria leading the pack.