Wednesday, January 19, 2022

BDF refutes Panda training camp planned relocation

Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has refuted reports that it is in the process of relocating its Pandamatenga Training camp to pave way for increased agriculture land use.

Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Colonel Tebo Dikole insisted that the training camp was not being relocated. “Pandamatenga Training Camp is not being relocated as you aver. Be that as it may, what is likely to be considered in the future is the type of training conducted there given that agricultural farms continue to surround it as the agricultural sector grows.

“Like all military camps, it is located on state land which falls under the purview of Ministry of Lands and Housing. As per the BDF Act we will continue to explore other suitable training areas in consultation with relevant stakeholders”, said Colonel Dikole. Sources within the BDF are however adamant that despite the denial by the army senior command, a decision to relocate the army camp has already been taken and it was only a matter of time that a formal announcement was made. The sources point out that as government strives to turn Panadamatenga farms into the country’s food basket, there was sufficient justification for the relocation. “The camp is currently situated on vast fertile land. Government through the Zambezi Agro Project has injected millions of Pula to reduce the country’s high dependency on food exports. The huge investment dictates that more land is availed for agricultural use so that return on the investment is easily achieved.

The Zambezi Agro project is a mega agricultural project and some financiers of the project like African Development Bank (ADB) have impressed upon government to relocate the training camp and pave way for irrigated farming. There is a lot of infertile land elsewhere in the country that can house the training camp”, said the sources. They added that a team of senior soldiers had already been assigned to look for an alternative site for the training camp in areas that are not agriculturally friendly and report back to government. “It will not be surprising if the camp is relocated to the Kgalagadi Desert where there is plenty unutilized land that is not good for farming.

Cabinet has already bought into the relocation so that the country intensifies its food production capacity in the near future hence the relocation. The only issue that that government is worried over is how it would raise adequate finance for construction of a similar if not better camp. The most important thing is that the training camp will have to be situated in a place that is far away from communities to avoid incurring huge relocation costs.

Kgalagadi Desert is most ideal and the international community that has always been financing the country’s military needs will easily endorse the move”, said the source adding that the World Food Programme has been apprised of the intended relocation.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper