The decision by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conversation and Tourism to buy a luxurious private jet that cannot be used for anti-poaching activities has set tongues wagging at the Government Enclave.
Sunday Standard has been informed that the decision to buy the luxurious jet is the brainchild of Minister Tshekedi Khama. While the ministry insists that the aircraft will be used in anti-poaching activities, allegations are that it has been purchased for Minister Khama.
The price for the luxury aircraft called Beechcraft King Air 350 is tagged at between P50 million and P80 million although the ministry was not in a position to state the cost of the aircraft and whether there was an open tender for its procurement.
Information gathered thus far indicates that while the Minister Khama does not fly the aircraft as a pilot, he uses it to traverse the breath and length of the country. There are even claims that the pilots for the luxurious jet are former employees of Wilderness Safaris.
President Ian Khama is Minister Tshekedi Khama’s elder brother and he is a shareholder in Wilderness Safaris.
A source close to the matter questioned the decision to purchase the aircraft saying it was not necessary to have bought the luxury jet under the current economic situation. He added that the ministry could also not justify why it had to purchase the aircraft because it cannot be used in rugged terrains or for anti-poaching activities.
“They are dodgy regarding the mandate of the aircraft. What does the Ministry of Wildlife use a luxurious jet for? Who does it transport; there is reckless spending at the ministry at a time when government parastatals are retrenching employees due to the meltdown that the country is going through,” he said.
The source added that: “The minister and his senior officials do not need that luxurious jet because they can fly by Air Botswana. This aircraft is different from PC 12 or PC 24 which are used for anti-poaching activities. It has nothing to do with wildlife management. It is an aircraft that cannot be used for (anti-poaching) operations.”
Initially the Ministry’s Public Relations Officer Game Garenna had stated the matter could not be discussed with the media as it touches on national security.
It was only when Sunday Standard demanded that the ministry commits itself to a written answer that a response was tendered. While the questions from Sunday Standard were only in relation to the King Air Beechcraft 350, the ministry skirted around the questions and decided to bring the attention of this publication to the aircrafts it has purchased over the years.
A response from the Director of Wildlife and National Parks Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo and routed through the public relations office states that: “The Department of Wildlife and National Park (DWNP) has several aircrafts which were received and displayed publicly.”
Tiroyamodimo further stated that: “The aircrafts are intended for wildlife management. The aircrafts pilots are the DWNP staff hence the Minister does not fly any aircrafts and it is not true that some of our pilots for the Beechcraft are former employees of Wilderness Safaris.”
Sunday Standard sought to establish among others:
- The cost of the aircraft and the date of purchase;
- The aircraft’s intended use, supplier and cost of maintenance;
- To confirm or deny that Minister Tshekedi Khama flies the aircraft; when the ministry procured the aircraft and what it was meant to be used for?
- Who is/are the pilot(s) of the aircraft?
- Whether it is true that some of the pilots of the aircraft are former employees of Wilderness Safaris? and
- The number of aircrafts the ministry has purchased since 2010.