Monday, October 19, 2020

Former army general MP wants BDF tenders investigated

A man who knows a little too much about the history of tendering in the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) wants the government to investigate tendering in the force going as far back as 1980.

Then BDF was only three years old and building itself up from scratch. Operating on the mistaken impression that the Bechuanaland Protectorate was all desert sand and little else, the British colonial government made no investments in it. When formed in 1977, BDF had absolutely nothing and immediately set about acquiring mat├®riel and putting up installations. The founding Commander was Major General Mompati Merafhe (as he then was) who would later join politics and was Vice President at the time of his retirement in 20… His Deputy Commander was Brigadier Ian Khama who, following in Merafhe’s footsteps, retired into politics in 1998 and is now the state president. The Commander-in-Chief was Khama’s father, Sir Seretse Khama, who held such position on account of being state president. 

The Gabane-Mmankgodi MP, Pius Mokgware, wants the government to investigate tendering in the force (he uses the word “procurement”) from the year of Seretse’s death ÔÇô 1980 ÔÇô to 2000 as well as from 2001 to 2014. It is unclear why the periods have been so demarcated but that is the way the MP wants the investigation to be done. As a retired soldier (Major General at the time he did), there is no doubt that Mokgware had access to highly confidential information about the tendering and there will be a very good reason why he chose to focus on such periods.

The periods Mokgware recommends for such investigation will cover the command of all but the current commander: Merafhe, Khama as well as Lt. Generals Matshwenyego Fisher, Tebogo Masire and Gaolathe Galebotse. Questions remain unanswered about a company associated with one of those generals. For decades and with no other company being invited to tender, Seleka Springs has been doing roaring business with BDF. Seleka Springs is owned by the Khama family and according to Wikileaks, then Vice President Khama tried to stop the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime from investigating the company.

Now free to exercise his freedom of speech after defecting from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party to the Botswana Movement for Democracy, Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, has made Seleka Springs one of his favourite topics. One question he asked ÔÇô about why company directors were the only ones who knew of BDF tenders ÔÇô is said to be the reason Lesego Motsumi lost her cabinet post and was redeployed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Motsumi is now Botswana’s High Commissioner to India.

In the just-ended special session of parliament that debated the draft National Development Plan 11, an issue came up in parliament of a very very important person (VVIP) helicopter that the government bought at a cost of P260 million. Circumstances surrounding the acquisition of this helicopter remain murky and one of the things that MPs wanted to find out was which company procured it for the BDF.

“Was it Seleka Springs?” asked Selebi Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse.

There was no answer to this and other questions and the Speaker directed the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, to dig out more information about the VVIP helicopter.

Supposing the motion gains passage, President Khama would still have the final say because in terms of the constitution, he has to grant presidential assent to what parliament recommends.

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