The Office of the Minister for Defence, Justice and Security wishes to respond to an article entitled “Military Involvement in civil policing risky”, by Kenneth Dipholo which appeared in the 9/11/08 edition of the Sunday Standard newspaper. While we respect the author’s right to his opinion, we beg to differ with him on some of the points that were raised in the said article.
The ongoing collaboration between the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) is a response to the current challenges facing our country in ensuring the safety and security of all its residents. In t0his respect, we readily acknowledge that there currently exist manpower shortages in the Police Service.┬á This hasnecessitated the engagement of special constables and joint roadblocks with local Police, as well as collaboration with the BDF.┬á
As a long-term solution, steps are underway to significantly boost the overall operational capacity of the Police Service.┬á These steps include, but are not limited to, plans for increasing the Police establishment at the beginning in the coming year to improve capacity.
In addition, the pending merger of Local Police into the BPS will increase the overall strength and efficiency of the Service.
An Air Support Unit will be established early next year.
All these endeavours will increase the capacity of the BPS, thus reducing its reliance on BDF.
In the article, it is alleged that “the military dictates terms and conditions of patrols and the handling of suspects”.┬á In the case of Botswana this is certainly not true.
In all policing operations involving military aid to civil authorities, it is the latter who takes the leading role unless specific instructions
to the contrary are given by the Commissioner of Police. This is in conformity with the operations agreement between the BPS and BDF.
The author goes on to cite one unfortunate local incident to make the sweeping suggestion that the military may have an inherent tendency to abusive behaviour. We believe that such a generalisation does injustice to the BDF’s well earned reputation as a disciplined force. We would further remind readers that the incident in question has been prosecuted in accordance with the law.
In conclusion, we wish to reassure the public that joint police/military patrols have been instituted to deal with specific crime related
challenges. Given limited resources, it is important for Government to maximise the human and material resources at its disposal. The BDF/BPS joint patrols are being carried out for no other reason than public safety and security.