Senior government officials appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week, for the first time since the construction of the controversial Mosu airstrip, admitted that it has been built using state funds for former President Ian Khama's private use.
Further, they conceded that the airstrip was built using Botswana Defence Force (BDF) personnel on private land belonging to Khama and will never revert to the state as the public has always been made to believe.
Appearing before the PAC, Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo admitted that the airstrip was constructed by the army using army resources and funds. “Our understanding was that it was not being built on a private property,” he revealed, adding that they used their own machinery to construct it to cut costs.
Put to him by the PAC member Dithapelo Keorapetse that the construction of the airstrip has cost more than P6 million, General Segokgo said he did not have the figures. General Segokgo said they moved their machinery after Khama retired as the Head of State as per the protocol dictates.
He said BDF has constructed airstrips for former Presidents being founding President the late Sir Seretse Khama and second President Sir Ketumile Masire at their farms. Recently when appearing before PAC last week, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Kabelo Ebineng said they have stopped maintaining the airstrip because it was proving too costly.
“That particular airstrip is the private property of the former president. He had a piece of land he acquired through Ngwato land board. Because of other privileges I can’t go into, a provision was made that the airstrip be constructed by Government. It was constructed by the BDF,” he revealed.
In the past when defending the construction of the airstrip, government maintained that the airstrip was a “strategic” facility registered with the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) that will “continue to be managed by the BDF as part of its strategic support of the President” and be handed to the authority when Khama leaves office.
Ebineng last week somersaulted and stated that they did not take over the airstrip as per the initial agreement because they have enough airfields within the area of their use as they are in reasonable proximity.
“We couldn’t justify why we should be spending P250 000 annually and a lump sum of P 5 million every five years,” he revealed and admitting that they could not justify the construction and maintenance of the airstrip.
In September 2016 the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Goitsemang Morekisi wrote to Civil Aviation Authorities Botswana (CAAB) instructing them to fence the Mosu airstrip with the understanding that after the completion of fencing it will be transferred to CAAB.
This never happened until President Khama retired from office in April this year. When answering a question in Parliament in 2013 the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Mokgweetsi Masisi who is currently the state President defended the construction of the Mosu airstrip. Masisi said President Khama intended to hand the airfield over for public use and that it was constructed by personnel and machinery of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as an exercise and measure of utmost frugality.