By Tshireletso Motlogelwa
Friday, 13 April 2012 | Issue: Vol.29 No.55
New evidence is emerging as to how far-reaching the Khama family dominated the security and defence industry.
Following media reports this week on this matter, more details are starting to emerge showing a company linked to almost every major military equipment supplier selling to Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
At one time in the history of the BDF, sources say, it was impossible to procure any major equipment for the local army without involving the then commander Ian Khama‘s brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony. The two brothers owned a company, Seleke Springs.
The company dominated procurement by holding agency licences for major military suppliers from Israel to Europe at a point when the BDF procurement system was dominated by procurement from those regions.
Mmegi investigations have revealed that the Khama brothers held agency licences for three major military companies – Austria’s Steyr, United Kingdom’s Thales/Racal (later Thales Group) and the Israeli manufacturer Tadiran (later merged with Elbit Systems). Military equipment industry is a secret system and indeed only those with access to it can get more access, as companies integrated and merged Seleka Springs leveraged off its former contacts in the new environment.
This week The Botswana Guardian has revealed how BDF imported 46 Armoured Personnel Vehicles worth P426 million in 1998, despite the advice of military experts on the inferiority of the tanks compared to those supplied by other manufacturers not linked to the Khama brothers. Steyr, the company for which the Khama brothers held an agency licence, was integrated into General Dynamics European Land Systems-Steyr GmBH, Europe’s major military.
The group got a $1million (P7.2million) deal in 1997 to supply the BDF with the 4K Tracked Armoured Personnel Carriers. They were three units ordered by the BDF. In the same year the BDF awarded the company a contract to supply it with 20 SK Kurassier light tanks at a value of $10million.
Both contracts elapsed in early 2000. However, by the signing of this contract the BDF already had 32 Sk Kurrassiers in its fleet, taking the total to 52, by 1997. The tanks required the installation of 20 FL-12 105mm turrets which were included in the deal. The Khama brothers are also linked to the Thales Group, the major supplier of military equipment and systems. It is involved in aerospace, space defence, security and transport systems.
Two years ago the Thales Group clinched the deal to install military training software and equipment. Named Sagitarrius Small Arms Training System the program is used by soldiers to train in small arms. Until recently, a number of officers from the company were in Botswana assisting in training BDF officers in the system.
In 1991 the BDF procured 25 Javelin Portable surface-to-air missiles with five launchers from Thales. The Thales Group has developed in multiple areas and in some cases merged with other companies. In 2000 it brought controlling stakes in a number of companies including ADI(Australia), Racal (UK), and African Defence Systems (South Africa).
The Khama brothers, through their company Seleka Springs, also have a licence to distribute from a company called Tadiran Communications (now Elbit Systems). Tadiran is a pioneer of unmanned military aircraft for the Israeli army. In July 2008 Tadiran Communications and Elbit Systems merged.
The BDF started building surveillance capacity in the late 1990s, finally procuring the Hermes 450 in 2004, from Elbit Systems. Botswana is one of only a few countries in Africa to operate the Hermes 450. According to the manufacturer, the Hermes 450 can be used for a variety of purposes, among them reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay, and it is well suited for tactical long endurance missions.
It has an endurance of over 20 hours and a maximum speed of 176 km/h. Attempts to contact Tshekedi Khama for comment at the time of going to press were futile. BDF spokesperson Colonel Paul T Sharp declined to comment on the allegations. He said he could not reveal the names of local agents of any supplier the BDF entered into business with, since these are third party issues. “Details of local agents of international companies can only be revealed by their principals, the international companies themselves,” he said.
- There are continuing denials of undue influence in the awarding of BDF tenders (gabzfmnews.wordpress.com)
- BCP wants answers following reports that the Khama family won the majority of BDF tenders (gabzfmnews.wordpress.com)
- Defence and Security minister, Seretse awarded tenders to supply bread to all BDF camps (gabzfmnews.wordpress.com)
- BCP says it is concerned by the abuse of intelligence by President Khama (gabzfmnews.wordpress.com)