Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Khama’s speech silent on fighter jets, EVMs

Having personally travelled halfway across the world twice in search of P5 billion-worth jet fighters, one expected President Ian Khama to say something in his state-of-the-nation speech about why it was necessary to acquire this asset. Under the Botswana Defence Force heading, Khama stated that part of maintaining the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as a “well-trained and adequately resourced military will comprise “military hardware, communication equipment, and mobility assets aimed at improving operational capability, efficiency and effectiveness.” As Sunday Standard learns from military sources, jet fighters don’t fall in any of those three categories. While there are certain types of aircraft (like the C-130, a transport plane) which can be used to mobilise soldiers and their equipment, jet fighters are not considered mobility assets. As a matter of fact, the term that one security source offers for jets is “air interdiction assets.”

The vigour with which Khama has been pursuing air interdiction assets and the amount of money he can easily get parliament to authorize to buy them suggests that they may be the most important BDF asset. However, his speech says the opposite.

“In addressing national security concerns, the BDF has recognised that its most critical asset is its human resource capacity. The recruitment, training, development and retention of quality personnel are thus considered to be pivotal,” the president said when opening the 2017/18 parliamentary year in his last state-of-the-nation address. He is right about the army investing in its personnel and it has been observed by some that BDF, which was mostly set up with school drop-outs, now has self-sufficiency that far exceeds that of Debswana Diamond Company which was set up with the cream of the educational crop. The energy that Khama has spent on acquiring jet fighters would seem to suggest that he considered the latter to be the most critical assets of the army. By the president’s own public admission, that is not the case.

Khama could also not bring himself to say “EVMs” when he spoke about elections. “With the coming into force of the Electoral Amendment Act, the Independent Electoral Commission mounted an extensive sensitisation campaign of key stakeholders on the new law, including all registered political parties and all councils,” he said. “Community leaders and the general public in all the 57 constituencies were also addressed. During this exercise, some Batswana called for the inclusion of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for the sake of transparency and integrity of the electoral process. Currently the Attorney General’s Chambers is drafting the Electoral (Amendment) Bill for the inclusion of the VVPAT.” It is odd that the president didn’t mention the technology ÔÇô electronic voting machines ÔÇô that is the result for the VVPAT. Not only did he not mention EVMs, Khama also failed to mention concerns that this Indian technology could severely compromise the integrity of elections. In the last media interview he did before his death, former president Sir Ketumile Masire added his voice to those calling for the shelving of EVMs.

 

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