Saturday, December 9, 2023

Khama’s P56 million flight into the sunset

Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama four months ago spent P56 million of tax payers money to ensure the luxury Puma helicopter he flies was fixed before he retired from office.

Khama blew the twin engines of the expensive EC225LP Super Puma Mk II+ helicopter last December during one of his regular junkets to the Gchwihaba caves. The Government enclave was pressed to fast track the release of P56 million to replace the two engines, and the whole hurried process was completed in record two weeks.

Parliament last year pushed through an amendment of former Presidents Pensions and benefits law to enable Khama to continue flying the Puma helicopter and other government aircrafts even after his retirement. Member of Parliament for Francistown South and Vice President of the Botswana Alliance for Progressives (AP) Wynter Mmolotsi-) slammed the bill at the time saying, “this is setting a shocking trend of legislating for individuals’ lifestyle. The bill was self serving and unacceptable to the opposition.”

Mmolotsi further said, “we disagree with a new clause that seeks to give the president the right to fly government aircrafts, use boats, bikes or any mode of transport as the president may determine. This is wrong because then the retired president will benefit the same way as the sitting President. This has an effect of giving retired presidents extended lavishness at a time when the country is going through some budgetary constraints. Allowing retired Presidents to fly aircrafts will also lead to abuse because they will use them to campaign for their party. Imagine three retired presidents each in his helicopter then the incumbent and his vice all canvassing support for their party using government resources.”

As part of his package, the former president was also built a multi ÔÇômillion luxury residence in Mosu complete with a runway and helipad to accommodate the aircrafts.

The EC225LP Super Puma Mk II+ helicopter which ranks as the most expensive business helicopters available on the commercial market according to Haute Living was acquired second-hand from Spain to serve as the presidential helicopter with Botswana’s VIP Flight at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport Gaborone, operating alongside single examples of the Beech Super King Air 200, the Bombardier Global Express, the Gulfstream IV and the Dornier Do-328-110.
The presidential Super Puma was formerly flown by the Spanish Cuerpo Nacional de Policia ÔÇô the national civilian police force, which acquired it in 2010 to support the Policia’s Grupo Especial de Operaciones (special operations group), equivalent to Germany’s GSG-9. 
In 2013, the aircraft was returned to Airbus Helicopters in part payment for a new batch of Eurocopter EC135s for the Spanish police. Its smart blue and white colour scheme was removed and it was subsequently stored for some time before being sold to Botswana.
The aircraft was overhauled by Airbus Helicopters at Albacete in Spain and was delivered to Gaborone in Botswana on board an Antonov Airlines An-124 transport aircraft, leaving Albacete on September 13 2016. 
President Khama also used the presidential Bell 412, one of eight similar aircraft delivered to Botswana, two of them in VIP configuration. 
Meanwhile, the Super Puma was flown to Lanseria in South Africa on February 16 2017, where it was stripped for a full re-spray, re-emerging in May in a smart VIP colour scheme, with cheatlines in the national colours (a white-outlined black stripe on a pale blue field), with a black spine on the tail boom and a pale blue upper tail rotor pylon.
On its return to Botswana, the Super Puma finally took on its new role as presidential helicopter.


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