For years, the size of Botswana’s army and national intelligence service has always been a closely guarded secret but COVID-19 appears to have changed all that.Ahead of a national vaccination programme that was (finally) rolled out last Friday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness identified sectors whose employees should be vaccinated first.
Top of the list are essential workers, among them members of the armed forces, namely the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), the Botswana Police Service (BPS), the Botswana Prisons Service and the Directorate of the Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). An additional group of BDF members is included under staff at “ports of entry.” The plan gives estimates of the size of BDF which a good source, a former high-ranking army officer, describes as credible.
“The enemy now knows the real strength of the Botswana military,” says the source. “If it attacks and kills a certain number of our troops, it would know how many are left. Our military strength should never be public information, especially that as a small nation, Botswana already has the vulnerability of having one of the smallest armies in the world.”
The size of the BDF and DISS are stipulated in a not-so-confidential document that has been put together as part of the national vaccination programme. Interestingly, some two or so years ago, BDF’s Public Relations Department refused to disclose army size on the reasoning that doing so would compromise national security. If that is indeed what happens when information about the size of the army is released, then the vaccination plan has compromised national security. Odder still, is that BDF itself that would be the source of that information.
To be clear, estimates about BDF size have published online but from what Sunday Standard learns, all are speculative and wide of the mark. Indeed, some of those estimates are off by thousands compared to the real figure published in the vaccination plan.
A national intelligence service is an extension of the army and for the same reasons, its size is also never revealed to parties that are not part of the security apparatus. The vaccination plan subverts that norm.