Botswana Defence Force has allayed fears that the ongoing construction of a military installation financed by the United States Department of Defence inside Thebephatshwa Air Base could lead to American soldiers ultimately being based at Thebephatshwa.
Thebephatshwa Air Base is Botswana’s key national and aviation security point. Perhaps because of its relative prestige especially after construction some twenty years ago, the Air Base has been blighted by endless and often tenacious international speculation that the Americans were behind it.
All reasons were provided either to justify how Botswana did not need the facility, could not afford it or why it was simply out of reach for the country’s little economy.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, the BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Colonel Tebo Dikole said the ongoing construction, which runs into millions of Pula is not an American base.
“…Subsequent to Exercise Southern Accord last year, the US Government awarded a tender to a local contractor for the construction of training classrooms and accommodation as a donation from the US government.”
Colonel Dikole said the classrooms and accommodation are a donation from the American Government.
Dikole said it is common practice for communities where military exercises were conducted to benefit.
“Since Exercise Southern accord 12 was held in the Kweneng District, the BDF and USA Engineers upgraded the Gamodubu Mmakanke road from a 5B to 5A state, and the Gamodubu dam capacity was increased by 200%,” he said.
He dismissed the notion that once complete the Americans will descend on Thebephatshwa. Thus the idea of Americans having a command of any sort did not arise, he said.
“Thebephatshwa Air Base solely belongs to the Government of Botswana. The facility does not in any way, shape or form have a bearing on command, and there will be no US soldiers based at Thebephatshwa,” said Dikole.
On whether the American financed facility is not likely to invoke a new bout of misconceptions that the base is an American asset, Dikole said the misconception of Thebephatshwa Air Base being an American Base has long gone through the mill, “albeit we would like to reiterate that the base solely belongs to the Government of Botswana.”
He emphatically dismissed any insinuation that the installation is a prelude or anyhow related to the Africa Command (AFRICOM) of the United States military.