Has the military complex won Masisi ?
• Botswana to acquire more fighter jets • Defence budget grows from previous P6.86bn to P8.57bn in 2020 • Opposition leader blasts President for high security expenditure • Report ranks Botswana 108 for military strength
Botswana has announced that the bulk of the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security budget will go into purchasing fighter jets.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka this week told Parliament that a total of P8.57billion recurrent budget has been allocated to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. Justifying the government’s decision during his budget speech presentation Matsheka said, “Expenditure on security should be viewed as national insurance.”
He pressed on, “Provision of adequate national security and maintaining the rule of law are critical for national development and doing business, hence the sizeable allocation.”
Even so, Matsheka asserted, “The bulk of it will go into procurement of air assets.”
For the past decade, former president Ian Khama was heavily criticised by the opposition and civil society for his administration’s huge military expenditure. Khama’s interest in procuring the super modern Swiss fighter jets Gripens did not sit well with observers who were of the view that the country should channel more money into resuscitating sectors such as Health.
Under President Masisi, in 2019, then finance minister, Kenneth Matambo allocated P6.86million to the defence ministry. Matambo backed up his allocation by saying, “National defence remains a key area in addressing issues related to public safety and protection. Through the NDP 11, Government is committed to capacitating the Botswana Defence Force to address emerging threats to public safety. Hence, resources will continue to be availed to the national army in the 2019/2020 financial year, for capacity building, human resource development and infrastructure development, including maintenance and upgrading of existing equipment.”
Since assuming office in 2018, Masisi has not put the brake on defence spending. This may be due to the fact that, he has had to deal with rising cases of poaching mainly targeting rhinos and elephants. The country is also facing growing cases of human trafficking as confirmed by Matambo in last year’s budget speech. “Government continues to improve national security structures and frameworks, in order to deal with emerging security threats.
As part of the implementation of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, 2014, the Government continues to undertake comprehensive campaigns geared towards the prohibition, prevention, combating and investigation of human trafficking,” he said.Speaking to journalists after the budget speech Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando slammed government for its perpetual high military expenditure. “The downside of (Matsheka)’s speech was that it demonstrated that this was still the old BDP as it demonstrated traits it did under former presidents. The development budget’s second highest expenditure, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security….They may be coming with a new name for it, but it’s still Gripens,” he said. “They were trying to give us an impression that it was the former regime which pushed for these things (Gripens).”
According to the outspoken Maun West MP, this was still the tradition even under former president Festus Mogae.
Botswana’s military strength is captured in the 2020 Global Fire Power (GFP) report which positioned the country at number 108 of the 138 countries considered for review.
The report which measures military strength according to population, land forces, manpower and airpower amongst other characteristics, denotes that with regards to airpower the country is ranked 88/108 countries. This according to GFP, is considered based on both fixed wing and rotacraft platforms.
GFP also revealed that Botswana spends an estimate of $450, 000,000 on the defence budget.