Friday, December 1, 2023

Botswana on a P7,5 billion weapons spending spree

Despite an anticipated deficit budget, Parliament will be asked to approve a P7,5 billion spending spree on the Botswana Defence Force ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have revealed. Preliminary budget estimates indicate that the BDF budget for the current financial year will go up by P3, 5 billion to P7, 5 billion compared to the P 4 billion in the last fiscal year.

The bulk of the money will go towards the procurement of military hardware for the BDF. About P5 billion (Euros 400 million) will go towards the purchase of Air Defence Missile system from France.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the BDF command has been in negotiations with  European multinational company MBDA missile systems (formerly by Matra BAe Dynamics), which is based in France for the procurement of the Mistral air defence missile system – an infrared homing surface-to-air missile . The BDF will also procure VL Mica missile air defence system from the French company and the total price tag for the two systems is Euro 400 millions about P5 billion. Botswana will be the only country in Africa with a VL Mica missile air defence system and one of only four in the continent with a Mistral air defence missile system. The other three African countries with a Mistral missile system are Morocco, Israel and Kenya. BDF commander Lt Gen Galebotswe accompanied by Lt Col Mokgadi and Lt Col Motlaleng were in France last December for a demonstration of the missile systems. The systems are to be delivered in 2017.

An expert threat analysis commissioned by the Sunday Standard suggests that there is no threat of a possible air attack against Botswana to warrant the expensive procurement. The first ever air attack in Botswana was in the 1930s by a British hawker Hurricane fighter plane dispatched by the British colonial administration to quell an uprising in Thamaga by Kgosi Mosielele.

The second air attack was in May 1985 by Apartheid South Africa’s helicopters at Sir Seretse Khama base in Mogoditshane. The only time Botswana Defence Force has had to use an anti aircraft missile was in 1987 against a piper Cherokee civilian plane which had strayed into Botswana’s airspace. The missile was fired by the late Air Defence Missile officer Major Mogotsi.

The Botswana Defence Force is also planning to spend close to P2 billion on eight Korean T-50 supersonic jet fighters. The deal which has been dithering for about two years is believed to have been put back on the table during President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s visit to South Korea in October last year. The Botswana defence Force is also expected to spend an undisclosed amount on Patton, Black Panther and Sherman tanks from South Korea.

Sunday Standard has further established that the BDF is planning to spend more than P 1 billion in the establishment of a military college in Paje. The BDF has already spent more than P100 million on consultancy fees on the project which was put on moth balls a few years ago because government did not have money to finance it. The project has since been revived and is to be financed through the controversial Economic Stimulus package (ESP). The Project has also had its own controversies and is currently the subject of dispute arbitration before private attorney MK Moesi. The dispute is between the BDF and the project architect Chris Phaladzi.

A threat analysis commissioned by the Sunday Standard suggests that the massive military expenditure is unwarranted and instead Botswana should be enjoying a peace dividend and investing the money on the welfare of citizens. The threat analysis indicates that no democratic state in history has ever attacked another, and as such Botswana’s huge military expenditure cannot be justified on security reasons. The issue of whether any democratic state has ever attacked another is however a moot point and the debate   on the definition of “democracy” (and of “war”) employed. As James Lee Ray points out, with a sufficiently restrictive definition of democracy, there will be no wars between democracies: define democracy as true universal suffrage, the right of all ÔÇô including children ÔÇô to vote, and there have been no democracies, and so no wars between them.
On the other hand, Ray lists the following as having been called wars between democracies, with broader definitions of democracy: The American Revolution including the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, the French Revolutionary Wars, the War of 1812, the Belgian Revolution, the Sonderbund War, the war of 1849 between the Roman Republic and the Second French Republic, the American Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Second Philippine War, the Second Boer War, World War I, World War II (as a whole, and also the Continuation War by itself), the Israeli War of Independence, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947ÔÇô1948, the Six-Day War, the Yugoslav Wars, and the Armenia-Azerbaijan War. Most Native American tribes also had democratic forms of government, and they often fought each other up until the late 19th century, as did most tribes of Norsemen during the Middle Ages.


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