Sunday, September 27, 2020

True owners of Khama’s Mosu airstrip divides Parliament

The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi on Monday struggled to disclose the ownership of the lucrative airstrip built at former President Ian Khama’s residential plot in Mosu village.

MPs felt that Kgathi was being evasive and accused him of failing to give a convincing answer as to who really owns the airstrip. The question of the ownership of the airstrip was asked by Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse.

“We are not in a classroom Mr. Speaker. I am answering a Parliamentary question here and the answer should be deduced from the contextual form,” said Kgathi who felt that he was being treated unfairly by other legislators.

Kgathi said “I answered in my body of the question that the airstrip is on the tribal land allocated to former President Khama by the Ngwato Land Board. It must be adduced from the context that even the past President Sir Seretse Khama’s airstrip was built at his Seleka farm. The same happened to former Presidents Masire and Mogae for whom the airstrips were built at their respective places. There are still there and is something not new.”

Mogae and Masire have in the past refuted building airstrips.

But MPs still felt Kgathi was being evasive and were critical of the manner in which he answered the question.

Kgathi dug in his heels. “There is nothing lacking in the answer Mr Speaker. What I am saying is this happened in the past. Airstrips were built to former Presidents for landing and security reasons. They are still there as we speak,” he said.

Parlaiment heard that construction at Mosu airstrip started in 2012 and was completed in 2017 at a residential plot of the former President Khama at a cost of P6, 5 million from the taxpayers’ money.

“The purpose of the facility was to facilitate the air movements of His Excellency the former President. You will notice that as part of the rights and privileges accorded to the sitting President of Botswana his travel and security were provided by the state falling under BDF, DIS and Botswana Police Service,” said Kgathi.

He added that “The airstrip is on the tribal land allocated to former President Khama. The intention was to provide safe air transport for the sitting President which has been found to be frequent to his residence in Mosu. The Mosu project was put up with the consent of former President.”

Commenting on Kgathi’s response, Keorapetse noted that “Mr. Speaker the helipads associated to former Presidents are not comparable to the over P6m airstrip built for former President Khama. Worse still a helipad can even be built by a DVS student from Mater-Spei.”

The Selebi-phikwe West legislator also wanted Kgathi to explain whether the airstrip is State or privately owned by Khama.

“The Minister deliberately avoided answering such questions,” Keorapetse said.

MP for Gabane/Mankgodi Major General Pius Mokgware also accused Kgathi of being evasive.

Serowe South MP and Minister of Local Government, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi also appealed to Kgathi to answer the questions as directed but this did not yield the desired results as Kgathi was unmoved.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.