The one year financial cycle is said to be working against the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in order for them to expand their developmental expenditure, revealed the army commander Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo.
Appearing before the Public accounts Committee (PAC) General Segokgo said that the one year financial cycle is a pain to them as it is far too short making it difficult for them to procure some of their equipment and do maintenance which sometimes takes over two years. “Globally there is no defence force that practices one year cycle due to the nature of the equipment being used,” he said.
Segokgo said the one year financial system must be interrogated and debated adding that they have engaged Ministry of Finance and Development on the issue but they had other views. He proposed a rollover budget which is the revised set of financial plans for the next accounting period used to replace the prior one in a continuous budgeting system.
Segokgo said the one year financial cycle has the potential to compromise their operations budget and implored legislators to look at the issue. Member of PAC Ndaba Gaolathe concurred with General Segokgo adding that they have in the past proposed rollover budgeting system as it is globally practiced.
“It will not only be good for the army but the entire government system,” said Gaolathe.
Asked about extent of poaching in Botswana, General Segokgo said poaching has not increased but rather poachers have moved to the western side of the park near Linyanti. “We have beefed up our security along the borders with the help of Zimbabwean National Defence Force and Zambian Defence Force hence the poachers have moved to other areas,” he said, calmly.
One of the reasons the anti-poaching unit seem to be struggling to nab the poachers, according to Segokgo, is because some of them are former members of the disciplined forces while others have a huge bush craft experience. “We cover a vast area in our anti-poaching operations and will be beefing up our anti-poaching unit,” he revealed.
On border patrols, Segokgo said 33% of their personnel are engaged in border patrols and working with other members of the disciplined forces.
In May this year, just a month after taking over as the fifth President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi moved swiftly and disarmed the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit. Some quarters within the army intelligence expressed concern that the DWNP anti-poaching unit was being turned into a militia.
Weaposn withdrawn from DWNP were sent to the BDF armoury and the army took full control of the anti-poaching operations something that did not sit well with some, especially the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama.
Few months later, a consultant engaged by DWNP Dr Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders (EWB) raised alarm through the international media and conservationists claiming that over 87 elephants were recenlty killed in northern Botswana sparking an outcry.
Huge army expenditure
Member of the PAC, Shawn Ntlhaile put to General Segokgo that there is concern within the region that Botswana is on an arms race and asked why BDF is always seeking a huge expenditure budget. General Segokgo justified that procurement of arms equipment is necessary and that there is just relative combat and they are maintaining it that way and it does not amount to an arms race.
Armed with statistics, General Segokgo said that they spend less than most of armies within the region as currently their expenditure is at 2.3% below that of South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe. Questioning the BDF expenditure, General Segokgo said is like putting up security at home and upgrading it every year but not having any break ins. “Will you say it was a waste of money for putting security at home,” he asked rhetorically.
“Countries need to spend on military equipment because if they don’t, they are fermenting their security,” he warned.
There has been concern that the army is allocated the lion’s share of the expenditure and in National Development Plan (NDP) 11 it was allocated P14 Billion.
The BDF budget is the biggest expenditure from the overall P22.4 billion budget allocated to the Ministry of Defence, Justice. During the 2015/16 budget P1.3 billion or 10 percent of the budget was allocated BDF for, “improving its operational readiness”. In the 2014/15 budget, its fourth largest share of 12.5 per cent or P4.8 billion was set to cater for maintenance of equipment and vehicles.
General Segokgo told PAC that leaking the internal memo was indiscipline and they are conducting investigations on who leaked it. “The leaking of the memo compromised the security of the former president and it was very wrong,” he said.
On Khama flying military aircrafts whilst he was still the head of state, General Segokgo said there was nothing wrong as he was the Commander in Chief but added that currently there is no command relation between him and former president Khama. "Even former US President George W Bush Jr used to fly the military aircraft as he was the commander in chief," he justified.
In May an internal memo was leaked in which the Air Arm Commander Major General Seleka Phatshwane informed the army’s Squadron Commanders that former President Ian Khama is no longer allowed to fly any BDF aircraft. In the savingram dated, 24 May 2018, Phatshwane states that “With the retirement of the former President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama, you are informed that he is no more allowed to fly any BDF aircraft as crew.”
According to Phatshwane, the development was in line with Air Arm Operation standing order no 2 of 2018. Phatshwane added that “when flying, the former President you are required to accord him VIP status and crew should be as per aircraft instructions (ASI).The Squadron Commanders are required to brief all their flying crew with immediate effect upon a request to fly the former President".
Peace Keeping Missions
From 1993 to 1994 a team BDF officers participated in a UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda as observers. The same year BDF troops participated in a UN peacekeeping operation in Mozambique. BDF also participated in Operation BOLESA, a SADC military intervention in Lesotho in 1998. The operation was the first step in a retraining programme for the Lesotho Defence Force members.
General Segokgo informed PAC that before they can engage in any peace keeping mission they have to look at the political risks involved, force retention and assessment of BDF troops and whether they will be able to facilitate the political settlement.“For example DRC is extremely complex situation as it has lot of players in the conflict with other countries having an agenda in the conflict,” he said reasoning that it will be difficult to send the troops there.