Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi stood his ground over his bold military at the on-going Ntlo Ya Dikgosi session on Monday, lashing out at his critics for wallowing in a false sense of illusion over excess army spending.
Opposition parties including the local media have carried criticised massive spending of the Botswana Defence Force, including the infamous Directorate of Intelligence and Security, insisting it was unnecessary especially since the country was experiencing relatively peaceful times.
“To run a Ministry of Defence is not a cheap exercise contrary to some quarters. It is expensive and I will always defend the allocation of adequate funds for the military for the defence of this country,” Kgathi said, acknowledging the motion by Kgosi Peter Johane Chika III of Chobe region who called for the setting up of a permanent military camp at Parakarungu camp along the Linyanti-Savuti and Shaile borders.
“For most of you adults many will remember the criticisms leveled at the military expenditure. But to do otherwise as suggested by some people will squander our 50 years of investment in peace and security,” he added, insisting Botswana was a leading peaceful country as suggested by international organisations because of adequate military spending culminating with the peace and security currently prevailing in the country.
“And this we take for granted but we should remove this illusion from some people,” Kgathi argued, saying there was justification over military expenditure which according to him is inadequate calling for more money for the military. So long as he is the Defence Minister, Kgathi will continue to bother Parliament for “more money” for the military.
“Take for example our diamond mines, Morupule B factory; they could be reduced into rubble within a blink of the eye,” he said.
Infrastructure developments estimated at P2 billion are destined at building a garrison camp at Gantsi Township taking precedent over building a permanent camp at Parakarungu.
“The project at Parakarungu is therefore not feasible for lack of money. The garrison at Gantsi will help with the decongestion at Mogoditshane and Francistown with the facilities from the camps expected to be transferred to the camp and alleviate the situation currently prevailing there,” Kgathi said.
Presenting his motion which was supported by the House, Chika III painted a gloom picture of working conditions of the military officers at the camp without adequate electricity, amongst others.
“They even rely on the school premises to store their food in the refrigerators there,” Chika III said, insisting the infrastructure developments at the camp leaves much to be desired with snakes even finding their way into the dilapidated shelters.
Such a situation does not augur well for the military which is supposed “to protect us, the tourism sector in region dominated by professional poachers from the neighbouring countries,” Kgosi Moffat Maiba Sinvula said in support.