The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Casa aircraft which crashed near Mapharangwane on Thursday killing three personnel was scheduled to transport Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to Tsabong where the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was holding its youth elective congress that same day.
If the communication of Government Spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay is anything to go by, Masisi is a lucky man as he seems to have dodged what would have been a tragic demise.
“The BDF Casa 212-300 aircraft that crashed last week had been scheduled to carry His Honour to Tsabong. I can confirm that this was indeed the case,” responded Ramsay briefly to media questions.
The BDF itself confirmed the fatal crash saying it occurred at the airbase immediately after take-off even though it could give further details as it said the investigations were strictly confidential.
This accident follows another one which occurred in 2012 involving two Pilatus PC-7 trainer aircrafts that got involved in a fatal mid-air collision. The BDF also said the details of this accident were confidential.
BDF aircraft fleet has been the subject of a controversial public debate, with the Ministry of Defence proposing a massive budget to replace it, a move passionately opposed by opposition parties who say the money should instead be spent on pressing needs like health and education.
The ruling party which has previously been criticized for using state military equipment for personal use will find itself under scrutiny as questions will arise on among other things whether or not government will do right by families of the deceased and compensate them.
The fatal plane crash happens at a time when Botswana has just signed military cooperation deals with South Korea in which the country is seeking to acquire FA-50/T-50 Golden Eagle fighter jets.
Botswana’s army personnel have also been in lengthy negotiations with different global fighter jet aircraft manufacturers. They include Brazil’s Super Tucano fighter jet manufacturers and the Sweden’s Gripen Next Generation fighter jet manufacturers, all of who are competing for the billion-pula worth of military hardware acquisitions.
Recently the Defence Ministry proposed a P22 billion budget for its expected expenditure during the tenure of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 which is set to run from 2017 to 2023.
Kgathi told parliament last year that of the P22 billion, P14. 8 billion will be allocated to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and other security agencies. The allocation was intended to include re-fleeting its now obsolete F5 fighter jets, armed vehicles and artillery needed by soldiers. There has been no budgetary allocation specifically tailored for the purchase of cargo aircraft commonly used to transport BDP members to their political rallies.
In his Budget Speech last week, Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo set aside P2.6 billion for the army’s expenditure on the various projects.