Saturday, September 25, 2021

Inside the BDF billion Pula armsgate

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is considering spending close to P1 billion development budget to import Russian T90 tanks although the army has close to P2 billion worth of  tanks which are not being serviced and have been  left to rot.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned information that each of the new BDF commanders who are appointed to the post do not want to inherit armored vehicles procured by their predecessors and would instead put them on mothballs and spend the army development budget on importing their preferred armored vehicles.

This legacy building drive in an industry that is believed to attract a lot of kickbacks is costing Botswana millions of Pula and has left the BDF with about P2 billion worth of tanks which are being left to rot. The Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that so far the BDF has abandoned 35 units of┬á V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando amphibious armored cars procured from the United States, some equipped with 90mm guns and BGM-71 TOW launchers. The armored vehicles cannot be used because they have not been serviced and maintained for the past seven years. Each unit costs about USD$1,2 million ( about P10 million) which puts the total book value of the vehicles at P350 million. Other independent online sources which used information provided by suppliers put the total number of BDF’s V-150 at 50 units which would round up the value of BDF’s abandoned V-150s at P500 million.

Investigations have also turned up information that the BDF is sitting on 52 neglected Steyr SK-105 Kürassier light tank 105mm and Steyr SK105 4K7-FA recovery tanks procured from  Austria. The Sunday Standard, however could not ascertain the book value of the 52 units of SK 105 tanks which have been decommissioned although they have clocked very low mileage.

The BDF has also procured 25 Alvis FV101 Scorpion light tanks from UK/Belgium and has not been servicing and maintaining them. Each of the 25 scorpion tanks is valued at USD 2,5 million which puts their combined value at about P500 million.

The Sunday Standard can also reveal that the BDF has 40 units of Ramta RAMV procured from Israel and each unit costs about USD 340 000 about P3 million. The estimated total cost of the RAMV armored vehicles came to P120 million. Investigations into the inventory of BDF’s armored vehicles further revealed that the army has a Unknown number of M578 Light Recovery Vehicles, 64┬á units of┬á Panhard V├®hicule Blind├® L├®ger procured from France, 50 units of┬á (France)┬á MOWAG Piranha III-C 8×8 APC imported from┬á Switzerland, 50 units of┬á BTR-60 8×8 APC bought from Russia six units of┬á FV103 Spartan APC imported from United Kingdom, 10 units of Shorland armored car imported from the United Kingdom and┬á 50 ACMAT TPK 420 BL 4×4 troop carrier imported from France. The BDF also tried to import 54 units of Leopard 1A3 from the Netherlands in 1996, but the deal never went through and no tanks were delivered.

Investigations have turned up information that the BDF Commander, Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe was in Russia recently, window shopping for armored cars and showed interest in Russia T90 tanks. This has sparked panic in diplomatic circles because Russia has of late been under EU sanctions and the deal could upset relationships between Botswana, the EU and the United States of America. The planned procurement of Russian T-90 tanks also has local military experts worried because BDF burnt its fingers in the 1980s when it procured 30 units of BTR-60PBs from the Soviet Union and found itself with expensive equipment that had no after sale service.

Responding to a written questionnaire on why the army tanks have been left to rot, their value and why they are not being serviced, BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Tebo Kacho Dikole stated, “disclosure of military inventory goes against operational security and therefore, the BDF cannot release such information as it borders on compromising our national security.”

Asked why the BDF commander would want to buy new T90 tanks from Russia when the army already has more than a billion pula worth of tanks some still in mint condition although never serviced and maintained, Dikole said, “ Botswana Defence Force, like any organisation reviews its inventory from time to time based on operational requirements and needs. Failure to do so would be tantamount to dereliction of duty as it would not address the security needs of Botswana.”

Dikole would neither deny nor confirm that the BDF commander is planning to buy T90 tanks from Russia, instead he stated, “ continued speculation regarding BDF procuring this or that equipment should be treated with caution as such reports as the previous ones are purely speculative and have the potential to misinform the public. November 2013: Sunday Standard ÔÇô BDF reportedly expressed interest in purchasing South Korea’s FA 50 light combat aircraft; September 2014: Sunday Standard- BDF reportedly wants to purchase MF16 Fighter Jets and this new speculation of March 2015: Sunday Standard ÔÇô BDF has shown interest in the Russian T90 tanks,” Dikole, however would not comment on whether the “speculation” is true or false.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper