Khama’s Mosu airstrip gives CAAB headache
- Mosu Airstrip was to be taken from Khama’s ownership after presidency
- Airstrip ownership should have been transferred to CAAB in Sept 2016 -CAAB
- In June 2017 another reminder was sent to CAAB to register the Airstrip-report
- DISS director says no instruction has reached him on opening the airstrip
The controversial Mosu Airstrip built on the former president lan Khama’s land is yet to be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) contrary to undertakings that it would revert to CAAB after Khama has ceased to President. Following revelations by the media into the construction of the airstrip at Mosu, the Khama administration issued various statements promising that the airstrip will be available for public and government use after Khama’s retirement.
At the time of the Ombudsman’s Mosu inquest, Khama’s private secretary Brigadier George Tlhalerwa told the Ombudsman, that the Airstrip was fenced by CAAB and therefore under their management. In his report however, the Ombudsman says this was “contradicted by the CAAB, who posited that they were, in September 2016, requested by the then permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications-Goitsemang Morekisi to fence the airstrip on the understanding that its ownership would be transferred to them as soon as fencing was completed.”
According to the Ombudsman report another reminder was sent to the Ministry in June, 2017, some eight month after the assurance was given but never materialised. To date, despite Khama’s retirement, Ministry and CAAB sources reveal that they do not know how to go about resolving the matter and convert the airstrip back to public ownership.
Government has to acknowledge that the matter ought to be dealt with at the highest level and “stop dilly dally by delegating junior officials to deal with bull dogs. The issue has been going on for a while, in fact we should have long registered the Airstrip because we were long told it was a public asset but it appears it is difficult to open it to the public,” leaked a source at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The airstrip has been under the control of the Directorate of Intelligence Services-which was, under Khama’s reign, the responsibility of colonel Isaac Kgosi who was also in charge of Khama’s security. This week, the new Director General of the DIS, Brigadier Peter Magosi informed this publication that he knows that the agreement was for the airstrip to be opened to the public but was unable to make further comments as he had not received any instructions to act upon, “ You may also want to speak to relevant government departments on the matter for clarity,” he said.
CAAB declined to comment on the matter when asked about when they are registering the airstrip under their name. They were further asked to give a progress report in what they are doing to assume ownership of the airstrip and open it to the public as previously undertaken.
Modipe Nkwe of CAAB, acknowledged the questionnaire but when this publication followed up its questions after two days, he replied that he had forwarded the query to the Ministry. The Ministry in turn acknowledged receiving the report but did not respond to this publication, on an inquiry that was sent on the 11th of May-two weeks ago.
When asked why they it would take two weeks to respond to a media inquiry, Oteng Mokowe the Ministry’s Spokesperson responded that they are still consulting other stakeholder departments like the Office of the President. When confronted yesterday, his boss, Kabelo Ebineng who is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry said he acknowledges that they have taken overly long to respond to the inquiry but promised that they are still working on it.
The Mosu saga has been a thorn in the side of Government during Khama’s presidency where even the highly responsive Botswana Defence Force did not want to get involved by answering media questions but referring all to the Office of the President.
It is not clear when and how the matter will come to an end but when asked this week, Khama’s private Secretary Brigadier Tlhalerwa said “soon.” “Nobody has contacted us yet but we will work on it and it will be under CAAB registry soon,” he responded. He declined to respond to this publication’s follow up questions yesterday saying we need to send written questions.
CAAB says the airstrip does not yet form part of their assets register, though they continue to maintain it, reads the Ombudsman’s report findings on his recent inquest to Mosu. “This is an arrangement which they-CAAB- are concerned, might lead to audit queries against them in the future,” reads the report.
The report says there were contradictions between government senior officials on the airstrip at the time of his investigation prompted by the Botswana Congress Party-BCP. “I have earlier demonstrated the contradictions between the information given on site and the CEO of CAAB on this point, with the former indicating that the airstrip was already under the management of the latter, who however denied such, stating that they were told that the airstrip would only be transferred to them once they had fenced it, which has not happened,” reads the report.
The report notes that information from security arms of Government indicate that the airstrip is currently for the exclusive use of Khama as it is classified as a National Key/Security Area hence access and civilian aircrafts will only be allowed on the airstrip after HE the President ceases to hold office and upon compliance with CAAB formalities, it has been advised.
“This totally negates the assertion that the airstrip is accessible to other government departments and that it is regularly used by the department of Wildlife and National Parks,” stressed the Ombudsman.
As things stand, the airstrip remains the personal property of Khama and is not accessible to members of the public or to other government departments despite the previous undertakings under his government. It is understood that it will be ultimately transferred to the CAAB and only then will it be opened up for public use.
This week the Ombudsman told this publication that his views on Mosu are contained in the report and must be sourced therein. The airstrip was constructed with funds from the BDF as part of the president’s security detail.