The hunger for military power between spy chief Isaac Kgosi and the president’s brother Tshekedi Khama has sparked a domestic arms race that threatens to throw the country into a multifarious political-military industrial complex should it remain unmonitored.
Defence and security experts have raised concern that the growing appetite of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) and Tshekedi Khama’s anti-poaching unit for procuring weapons is not only for political power but also to disguise the misuse of public funds.
Military industry experts argue that the current race to procure aircraft and arsenal through these security organs is indicative of Botswana’s political-military industrial complex which is motivated by the lack of oversight and transparency in the deals.
“It allows for excessive and unaccounted for looting of public funds since the defence procurements are often veiled behind secrecy,” they said.
Both Tshekedi and Kgosi are at the helm of security organs that enjoy unmonitored secrecy in use of public funds. This emerged following reports that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) had purchased a P100 million executive jet from Swiss maker Pilatus PC24, a procurement deal that did not go through PPADB and parliament.
According to documents gathered by this publication, Gaborone will also become one of Pilatus service centres in Africa when the aircraft is delivered by 2017 end. Markus Bucher, CEO of Pilatus Aircraft confirmed in a statement that Botswana will be one of the service centres for the Pilatus aircraft in Africa. “We are proud to announce the extension of our partnership with an outstanding network of authorised sales and service centres for the PC-24 these are 10 sales and service centres worldwide that will support its new turboprop, the PC-24.”
This publication has also learnt that two publications (names withheld) were threatened from publishing the story on DISS procurement of an executive jet after being told it was a matter of national security and for this reason expert commentators have remained anonymous.
In November 2016 reports, which government did not refute, revealed that Tshekedi procured a luxury Beech Craft King Air 350 for his ministry, the cost which was estimated to be between P50 million and P80 million. This procurement itself did not go through parliament and PPADB, this publication can confirm.
THE HUNGER FOR POWER
The ongoing cold war between Tshekedi and Kgosi is not only the thirst for control of the ruling party, it has escalated into an internal arms race and a curious overreaching appetite for military power and dominance. Experts told this publication that recently in parliament when Tshekedi argued at length against the P15.5 million supplementary budgets requested by the DIS, reportedly to pay invoices for maintenance of computer systems, it was to deter parliament for giving Kgosi more funds.
Tshekedi had argued in parliament that by allowing the additional P5.5 million for the DISS, parliament would be reflecting its “misplaced” priorities, stating that part of the funds should rather be diverted to his ministry to allow him to compensate Batswana whose property had been damaged by wildlife. Experts counter argue that Tshekedi’s interests may not be solely motivated by combating poachers but also to take a piece of the budget that DISS wants for his Anti-Poaching Unit.
An expert explains that Tshekedi’s intention is to combat alleged poachers who are understood to be DIS agents smuggling ivory- as it recently emerged in media reports.
Kgosi reports to the office of the presidency which openly endorsed Masisi as the next state president. Tshekedi is in the Nonofho Molefhi political faction which is rivalling Mokgweetsi Masisi for presidency in 2019. Both the DIS and the Anti-Poaching unit are paramilitary organs- armed to the teeth and have some of the country’s best trained commandos reporting to Kgosi and Tshekedi, this includes intelligence personnel. When Kgosi left BDF to start DIS in 2007, he stripped the national army of almost all its best weaponry as evidenced by the “spy equipment” court debacle which was in the end played down as Kgosi’s fight for dominance over the Military Intelligence (MI). Military insiders however say Kgosi has won this war since the surveillance equipment stolen from MI was never returned.
In the midst of this conflict, both Kgosi and Tshekedi know that weapons give political might and strategic edge in negotiations, military experts have observed. The complexity in all of this is that in Botswana, the obscurity of the procurements is used to protect both the suppliers and the beneficiaries of the deals while bleeding public coffers of millions of pula.
While it is common knowledge that BDF acquisitions have suffered from a situation where the middle-men, who are also politicians, dictate the deals, what should be bought, when and where; the BDF’s defence council and the parliament whose role is to advise between national security and national interest in these acquisitions- have remained powerless and are controlled by politicians with interests in the arms industry.
Experts opine that such acquisitions need to be reformed to meet national interest and security needs rather than being driven by economic interest. Without any capable oversight, with Tshekedi and Kgosi armed to the teeth all they can do is to fight each other since there is no real or imagined eminent adversity in Southern Africa.
In 2013 President Ian Khama’s administration confirmed being in talks with various jet fighter manufacturers in efforts to increase the military’s air capacity while declaring the F5 jets obsolete. Reports indicated that the deal could set the country’s budget back P5 billion. Negotiations are still ongoing as Swedish, South Korean and Brazilian arms manufactures are battling to get Khama’s approval. This was also exacerbated by the Defense Ministry’s recent budget request for P22 billion in NDP 11, which included re-fleeting of military aircraft.
Last year around the country’s 50th independence celebrations the army received a P300 million Super Puma helicopter which was reported to have been admired and bought at the directive and pleasure of President Khama.
In just under a year, Botswana has spent close to half a billion bringing into the country executive aircraft for Khama, Kgosi and Tshekedi. Whichever way these issues are considered, both poaching and military acquisitions are a channel exploited by those in power to loot state resources without leaving a trace and the race to stay in control of that sphere of dominance has just begun.