Monday, January 24, 2022

BDF building airfield on Khama’s private land

. Cost of construction borne by state
. OP will not disclose cost of building the airfield
. Project exempted from EIA though built on ecologically sensitive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
. Airfield meant to facilitate president’s air travel ÔÇô OP
Botswana Defence Force is constructing an airfield in Mosu on a private piece of land owned by President Ian Khama.
Once completed the airfield will form part of the president’s elaborate array of holiday resort infrastructure.
Because the airfield is being built by the army, no Environmental Impact Assessment has been conducted, notwithstanding the fact that it is not a military installation.
BDF and the Directorate of Intelligence Services are by law exempted from the exigencies of Environmental Impact Assessment.
This however does not take account of the fact that facility is on a private piece of land situated on the pristine and ecologically sensitive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
According to the Presidency, the airfield is expected to facilitate President Ian Khama’s air travel.
At the time that Sunday Standard was investigating this story, heavy machinery, almost all of it owned by Botswana Defence Force had started a massive de-bushing exercise to clear a chunk of land where the airfield is going to be constructed.
“It is indeed true that the BDF is constructing a landing strip near Mosu for His Excellency the President.┬á┬á The construction of this airstrip is to facilitate the air movements of His Excellency the President,” said the Head of Government Communications, Jeff Ramsay in response to a set of questions that Sunday Standard had sent to his office and the Botswana Defence Force.
Dr Ramsay holds that it is not the first time that the BDF has constructed airstrips and helipads to support their air movements.
He however does not say which past president has had an airfield built on their private land at the cost of the state.
Also not addressed is the scale of the project and when it was financially planned for within government.
He also deliberately declined to state the cost of this highly guarded fortress.
Without explicitly stating who the owner of the land is, Ramsay said consent has been sought.
“Prior consent is sought for this use and agreed by the owner.┬á Further more permanent agreements have been made with companies such as Kwando Safaris near the Kwando River and Linyanti Explorations near Linyanti River.┬á In case of Mosu airstrip this is also going to form part of the Makgadikgadi Pans Management Plan and will be used by both tourists and official aircraft that is operating in that area as is envisaged to be registered with CAAB.”┬á
Sunday Standard can however confirm that this piece of land is owned by President Khama. It is not clear what will be the arrangement of use by other aircraft once Khama ceases to be the Head of State.
Dr Ramsay went on to say that “… construction of aircraft infrastructure is not limited to Heads of State only.┬á Due to operational requirements and because of no alternative positions for construction, the BDF uses privately owned airstrips in support of its mission of defence of this Nation.”
Answering a questionnaire on behalf of the BDF, the presidential spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay as part of the rights and privileges of the President of the Republic of Botswana his travel and security are provided by the State (falling under the BDF, DIS and BPS).
“It is not the first time that the BDF has constructed airstrips and helipads for our various incumbent Presidents to support their air movements.”
On whether or not any Environmental Impact Assessment has been done since this construction is being done on an ecologically sensitive area, Ramsay drew Sunday Standard attention to the fact that the BDF and DIS are immune to the requirements of the Act.
A quick perusal of the Act shows that BDP and DIS are exempted only on account of National Security.

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