Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has distanced itself from former senior officer, Brigadier Iphemele Kgokgothwane who has claimed that he continues to offer his voluntary services to the army as a lion trainer at the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks.
This week The Telegraph learnt that despite his retirement Kgokgothwane is still the man at the top in handling and taking care of lions at SSKB. Some believe Kgokgothwane was offered an opportunity to continue offering his lion training service as a way of silencing him. The Opposition UDC parliamentary candidate for Serowe South in the 2014 has been a critic of government policies.
BDF spokesperson Fikani Machola denied allegations saying all the wild animals kept at the BDF Animal Awareness Park at SSKB including lions are taken care of by BDF personnel who are trained in animal handling and care.
“In light of the above allegations regarding Brigadier Kgokgothwane and the training of lions at the above mentioned location are not true,” said Machola.
On the other hand Brigadier Kgokgothwane confirmed to this publication that he is still the man taking care of the lions at SSKB claiming he is doing that on voluntarily basis because of his love for the lions.
“I have been training the lions from way back and even now I am currently training those lions. I am the one who brought those lions to BDF. At the time I was a soldier I went into the bush to catch those lions. I understand those lions better than anyone else,” he said.
Kgokgothwane said he never stopped taking care of the lions after his retirement.
“Now that I have retired from service I volunteered my time in taking care of those lions. I am only doing this because of my passion for lions; I understand how those lions live hence I volunteered my time,” said Kgokgothwane.
He said any soldier assigned to look after the lions does so on a voluntarily basis but it is not that all the time they have a passion for lions.
“BDF might be having those who look after those lions but that is voluntarily work. Obviously those soldiers that do it without passion can never understand those lions like I do,” he said.
Kgokgothwane claims that he goes to SSKB in the mornings sometimes in the afternoon to make sure that the lions are taken care of.
The Telegraph could not establish why Kgokgothwane trains the lion on voluntary basis as he insisted that he is not paid for the job.
“I am not paid for taking care of these lions I am doing it for the love of lions. And those who are taking care of them are just abiding by commands and there is no how they can do the job like I do,” he said.