> Senior army officers eye BDF Commander post
A major shakeup is expected at Sir Seretse Khama barracks when President Mokgweetsi Masisi appoints a new Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander as the incumbent Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo is reaching statutory retirement age.
Masisi has the option to release Lt General Segokgo or retain him on a short term contract. Highly placed sources within the military have opined that when Masisi finally sits down to consider Segokgo’s successor, his decision will be informed by service history, personal preference, political consideration and advice from his inner circle mostly led by his elder brother Retired Brigadier Thulaganyo Masisi and Lieutenant General Tebogo Masire. Rt Brigadier Masisi – a Special Forces officer by training known for toughness during his hey days in the army – has mentored most of the senior army officers and is in a better position to advice his younger brother.
The shake-up at SSKB will see some high-ranking officers re-deployed in high profile portfolios in the armed forces as President Masisi asserts his position within national security. Traditionally by April the President announces promotions for senior officers in the BDF but this has not happened since Masisi came into office. The announcement for promotions and deployments is expected anytime soon when Masisi will give direction and posture that national security should assume going forward.
Although Major General Gotsileene Morake is the deputy Commander and naturally expected to succeed Segokgo, sources close to Masisi speculate that he might go against the grain and appoint a different person. Masisi, who has already shown that he is firm in his decision making by firing of the most feared spy chief, might shock many within the military establishment.
When former President Lieutenant General Ian Khama appointed General Segokgo as the army chief those close to the development revealed that it was a stop gap measure in order to allow Masisi to appoint his own army chief. One of the issues that President Masisi will look at when appointing the new army Commander, is to bring someone who will continue to help restore morale among the servicemen.
When General Segokgo took over from General Galebotswe one of his objectives was to restore morale among the soldiers. “My focus as Commander of the BDF shall be in the five key areas of capability, improvement of our conditions of service, finalisation of the BDF Act Review, the provision of ready trained forces all underpinned by our values,” said General Segokgo during his inauguration, promising to implement the roadmap outlined by his predecessors.
So far he has managed to oversee the BDF Act Review by Parliament, which includes increasing the retirement age of army officers from 55 to 60. Although he has signed a two year contract, Segokgo might see his contract extended in order to allow President Masisi more time to assess possible successors.
Major General Morake
Just like Segokgo, Major General Morake is in his twilight years in the army and there is speculation that he might retire before General Segokgo to allow for smooth transition. Should he be appointed as the army Commander, it will only be a contract of less than five years. 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, Major 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 was always putting him at odds with the former army commander General Galebotswe. The son to former cabinet minister Kebatlamang Morake, Masisi might reward him with a diplomatic post.
Major General Seikano
Currently the Commander of Ground Forces Major General Molefi Seikano is the same class with the current Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Brigadier Peter Magosi and former BDF Commander Lieutenant General Galebotswe. They were both trained as Special Forces by the British Special Air Services (SAS).
Before he became the Commander of the Ground Forces he was the Commander of the Second Infantry Brigade, the largest in the country. General Seikano who hails from Moshupa is viewed in the army as a humble leader but very tough when it comes to discipline as dictated by his special forces training.
Major General Mpho Mophuting
If Major General Seikano makes it as the next army general some within the army believe his replacement will be Major General Mophuting, the current Director Support Services. They were both promoted to the rank of Major General by President Khama in 2015. Mophuting returned from the USA a few years ago where he was studying. He is one of the senior army officers who were groomed by former President Khama whilst he was still the BDF commander.
Mophuting holds three Masters degrees - Master of Business Administration (MBA), Supply Chain Management, Master of Science (MS), National Resource Strategy at National Defence University, Washington DC, USA and Master of Arts, International Security Studies & Civil Military Relations Naval Postgraduate School, California, USA.He recently completed Certificate, Senior Leadership Course at Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (Washington, DC) and Certificate, Developing Effective Policy: Analysis and Use of Evidence at Royal Institute of Public Administration. He has previously held the position of Director, Policy, Strategy and Plans.
Major General Phatshwane
Although chances of him assuming the Commandership of BDF are limited, Major General Seleka Innocent Phatshwane is one of the few army officers whose progression in the army was meteoric. He was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier in 2011 and appointed deputy Commander, Air Arm in 2012. In 2015 together with General Seikano they were promoted to the rank of Major General and he was appointed Commander of the Air Arm command.