An Army in darkness

Kabelo Dipholo

Donga BDF Camp’s power-cut spoils Independence for soldiers

A two-day power cut at Francistown’s 2 Military Garrison (Donga BDF Camp) during the Independence holidays has exposed worrying inadequacies in the camp.

While The Voice was reliably informed the power cut occurred on Saturday 28th September at 2300hrs and was not restored until 1600hrs on the 30th, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) differ slightly on the timing, insisting it took place on the 29th from 0100hrs to 1300hrs on 30th September.

According to a well-placed source, the military camp’s entrance, clinic, administration block, canteen and the armoury were all affected.

It was also claimed that the standby generators meant for such a situation have been out of order for quite some time.

“There are about seven standby generators and only one is working. It is currently connected to the Senior Officers Mess and their residential areas. So while we were in the dark, the seniors bar and their houses had power,” said a concerned soldier.

“The situation was really bad. All the meat and other consumables in the canteen were taken to the Area S camp,” she added.

The officer said some of her colleagues also had to move their perishables to their friends in the city.

“Remember it was Independence week, we’d all been paid and had just restocked on our groceries.

A half day without electricity is barely acceptable, but two full days is irresponsible,” charged the officer, adding her fellow soldiers were worried that with the armoury and the guardhouse in total darkness, there was a high chance of a security lapse.

In a response to a questionnaire the BDF, however, refuted most of these allegations.

The statement from Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Colonel, Tebo Kacho Dikole maintained that during the power outage, some of the backup generators were used to power both operational and residential areas including the canteen.

“Provision of electricity in the camp is not based on rank. Therefore, to infer that the power was only restored at Senior Officers Mess and their residential area is misleading to say the least,” wrote Colonel Dikole.

He said that the technical information revealed the power cut was caused by the explosion of an underground cable which had short-circuited.

Colonel Dikole stated that ‘some’ of the generators were unable to provide power as expected.

He said the BDF have since engaged a private company, which is already on site working on maintenance of all standby generators.

Dikole added they are also working with Botswana Power Corporation to ensure that underground cables are safe in order to prevent similar blackouts in the future.

“Furthermore the BDF wishes to state that the unavailability of electricity in any of its camps does not compromise its operations in anyway, since the Defence Force is capable of operating under any condition,” he concluded.

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