- BDF prefers to prosecute its own personnel
- BDF members should not appear before civilian courts
- Army says they were given a waiver as required by law to seize/transfer case
- Wildlife director says they are not aware of the case transfer
The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) taken a criminal case from the Botswana Police Service and elected to prosecute the matter internally away from prying “civilian eyes.”
The reputation-breaking and high-profile case in which eight members of the army were charged with poaching a buffalo and skinning it, has been confirmed by the Botswana Defence Force.
The case was been investigated by the Gumare/Maun Police after one of the operators within the NG/29 Concession-a Park located in Ngamiland East- unexpectedly located the army personnel in possession of a skinned Bufallo.
As previously reported by this publication, the case had set the Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and BDF commander on a collision course as Khama complained that it was shocking to find that the guardians -BDF were now the one eating the flock.
At the time of breaking this story a month ago, the army was at pains trying to respond to the questions and made efforts to protect their integrity against the growing concerns as to soldier welfare. Although they confirmed the incident, the BDF reiterated that the military is a professional body whose mandate is to defend Botswana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national interests.
This week this publication learnt that the case is no longer being handled by the police as the army has requested that it be transferred to them to deal with.
This was confirmed by BDF spokesperson, Colonel Tebo Dikole in a response to this publication, “The matter regarding the alleged poaching by BDF personnel was reported to the Botswana Police Services, albeit the Botswana Defence Force was granted a waiver of the jurisdiction to deal with the matter as provided for in the BDF Act Section 211 (4) (d),” he said.
The provision states that “military authorities shall have the primary right to exercise jurisdiction in respect of offences committed in Botswana if the offence arises out of an act or omission in the course of duty.”
The BDF declined to go into the details saying they are constrained from commenting further, as the matter was sub judice (under judicial consideration).
Dikole however hinted that the charged members have not yet been interdicted as the BDF is currently undergoing a transitional period owing to the recent Act amendments. “We cannot use an old act or new one at the moment and thus all disciplinary cases have been suspended,” he said.
Still on the same matter the BDF has allayed fears of those who may doubt their commitment to anti-poaching by affirming their commitment, as evidenced by the significant quantity of equipment and personnel resources engaged in anti-poaching operations.
The BDF members had loaded the Buffalo meat into their vehicle at the time of discovery and quickly rushed to inform the “Snooper” that the Buffalo was attacking them and was shot in self-defence. The challenge however was that the BDF personnel had skinned the Buffalo and were found in possession of its meat.
The Minister responsible for wildlife, Khama at the time tongue-lashed the army and told them to get their house in order if they want to be respected anti-poaching partners. The incident happened shortly after the executive had instructed Khama to relinquish the arms of war held by his Ministry, which the Minister claimed was used in anti-poaching operations as they are often confronted by very dangerous and well- equipped poachers.
In their previous response on the matter, the army said that the members if found guilty will be dealt with according to the law of the country.