Thursday, October 1, 2020

Masire, Mogae’s helicopters landed on dusty clearings in the bush

The taxpayer never incurred any extra cost when Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae were flown home in state aircraft.

When the issue of the controversial Mosu compound was revisited a fortnight ago, the Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Commission that it was customary for the army ÔÇô whose pilots fly the president ÔÇô to provide comfort.

At the Mosu compound, the government built an airstrip at a cost of P60 million to provide comfort for former president Khama. An army source says that the comfort accorded both Masire and Mogae never broke the bank. As Botswana’s first “master farmer”, Masire had two farms, one in Sekoma and another in Gantsi. During his time in office, he would be flown to both in an army plane ÔÇô then there was no presidential helicopter. As a pan, Sekoma is a natural airstrip and the plane would land on a patch of communal land that had been levelled off. He would then be transported by four-wheel drive vehicles to his farm – which is just 10 kilometres away. When he visited the Gantsi farm, his plane would land at the township airstrip (which is classified as “strategic”) and would once more be driven to his farm. When he visited Kanye, his home village, he would be airlifted by an army helicopter from Gaborone and a few minutes later, the helicopter would land in a level clearing near his house in the village.

A non-farmer, Mogae never had to be flown to a farm of any kind and the one private residence where army pilots would take him was his house in Palapye. Once more, the helicopter would land on a small patch of level clearing in front of his house. Not so with Khama. Midway his term of office, the former army commander and Bangwato tribal chief, got the government to build him an airstrip with a helipad in Mosu.  It has now emerged that this airstrip was built at an estimated P60 million and would have cost the taxpayer P5 million to maintain every five years.

It has also emerged that the government was under the impression that the 45-hectare airstrip was being built on communal land and would be open to the public. Actually that land belongs to Khama personally and the airstrip’s 1.6 kilometre runway is long enough to accommodate a Pilatus PC-24 twin engine business jet ÔÇô the same model of plane which the old-guard Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service surreptitiously acquired for Khama.

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