The tenure of the Commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe will come to an end at the end of July as he has reached the statutory age of retirement and speculation is rife in the army about his successor. Although there are four senior officers who can replace General Galebotswe, President Ian Khama – who is the appointing authority as the commander in chief – might bring someone outside the top four.
The change in the army command will start to unravel beginning of April this year when President Khama would be appointing new senior officers while some will be retiring, military sources have revealed. Last year President Khama made some changes which some within the BDF high command and saw that as the launch of the succession plan within the 39-year-old army.
“The appointment of a BDF commander is always ‘political’, but the politics are usually internal within the government – in the end the choice lies with the President – and it stays internal,” said a military source.
In 2015 President Khama promoted two senior BDF officers Brigadier Seleka Phatshwane and Brigadier Molefi Seikano to the rank Major General. Seikano took over as the commander of the Ground Forces from Major General Gotsileene Morake who has since been appointed General Support Service Director while Phatshwane was appointed commander of the Air Arm Command taking from Major Gen. Odirile Mashinyana.
One of the issues that President Khama is expected to look at is bringing in someone who will restore morale within the army which is said to be at all-time low since 2012. “Since General Galebotswe was appointed the commander he came up with strict regulations within the army which led to some experienced and skilled officers leaving the army,” said a source. A commando by training, Galebotswe’s style of management is said to have made some soldiers not comfortable.
After being appointed commander, General Galebotswe shocked many within the military fraternity when he removed Brigadier Peter Magosi as head of Military Intelligence replacing him with Colonel Cullen Nkete. Both Magosi and Galebotswe were trained by the British Special Air Services. The removal of Magosi exposed the BDF intelligence to the general public after he took the army to court over the missing spy equipment which he refused to hand over to his successor. Realising that their security will be compromised the issue was solved internally and Magosi reappointed as head of MI.
It was during his tenure as commander of the BDF, that the army recruited the highest number of recruits due to high number of resignations. Galebotswe, who joined the army in 1983, was appointed BDF deputy commander after the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo. Contacted for comment last week, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi said little about the looming succession at the army’s high command.
Major General Placid Segokgo
He is currently the Deputy Commander of BDF and previously the commander of the air arm command. Those close to him, describe him as an original thinker and a charismatic officer with extensive experience in air arm. “He is a soldier’s soldier though not in the same mould as former ground forces commander retired Major General Pius Mokgware,” said the military source. He is viewed as the man who can help to boost the morale at the BDF which is currently at its lowest. He is credited for handling well the accident in which four pilots that were on a refresher training course in 2011 collided mid-air while piloting the Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer planes.
Major General Morake
The son to former cabinet minister, Kebatlamang Morake, Maj. General Morake though one of the favourites to be BDF commander, some saw his redeployment from ground forces commander to General Support Service Director as a disadvantage that could work against his ascendance to BDF commandership. An academic Maj. General Morake is the founding Director of Defence Command and Staff College (DCSC) as well as former Chairman of the African Conference of Commandants of Staff Colleges. Those close to him say he is as a liberal army officer who prefers openness within the army, something which always found him at crossroads with General Galebotswe.
Major General Seikano
He is regarded as an outsider in the race for BDF commandership. Seikano, who was promoted to the rank of major general last year, is still viewed as new in BDF leadership though he was previously the Commander of the second Infantry Brigade, the largest in the country. “Our political masters want to be comfortable with people they already know and this might exclude General Seikano,” said the military source. Just like Galebotswe, Maj. General Seikano trained under Special Forces and were both trained by British Special Air Services (SAS). Among the army officers Seikano is regarded as a humble officer who is not pompous but like Galebotswe puts emphasis on military toughness as perceived by the commando training.
Major General Phatshwane
A dark horse in the race for the BDF commandership, Maj. General Seleka Innocent Phatshwane – a pilot by profession – is currently the commander of the Air Arm command.
His acceleration into the BDF leadership is phenomenal having been promoted from Colonel to Brigadier in 2011 and appointed deputy commander of the Air Arm in 2012. In 2015, he was promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed Commander of the Air Arm command.