Defence, Justice and Security Minister, Shaw Kgathi, says six soldiers have died and six more injured in nine Botswana Defence Force (BDF) crashes in the last ten years.
Kgathi who was responding to a parliamentary question last Friday said six of the accidents were due to pilot error, while two are still under investigation.
“These crashes and incidents were investigated with a view to determine the cause and appropriate interventions for preventing a repeat of similar incidents,” he said.
Nonetheless other members of the house, especially the back bench expressed doubt on the credibility of Kgathi’s investigations.
“This investigative process, which has determined that of the eight, six were due to pilot error, how credible is this process? Who does the investigation, is it an independent competent body that is not attached to the BDF, or is it members of the BDF who may very well act under dictation and absolve the BDF and blame the dead pilot. How credible is the process?” Duma Boko of Gaborone Bonnington North, probed.
In response Kgathi said the process is credible and that the safety of both man and machine is of paramount importance and that as a result, the BDF subscribes to the highest safety standards when it comes to the operation of its air assets.
“In this regard, regular preventative maintenance and inspections are carried out on all aircraft in the BDF fleet, either on a calendar basis (number of days or months) or hourly basis (after a certain number of hours of operation) in line with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and the BDF Air Staff Instructions (ASI) to ensure air worthiness at all times.”
Kgathi further explained that, other precautionary and preventative measures applied include regular on-the-job training and up-skilling through the BDF Flying Training School, the Pilot Conversion Programmes at all the flying squadrons, the Technical Training School and the Technician’s Aircraft Conversion, OEMs’ and Aviation Training Institutions abroad.
“The basic objective, which entails the combination of these initiatives and programmes by the BDF, is to achieve world class military flying knowledge and capability as well as to produce and maintain world class military pilots capable of carrying out operations in any environment,” Kgathi added.
Another concern which was raised by Selebi Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse, was that the fallen soldiers’ families or injured soldiers were not compensated adequately. ”Do you fully apprise families in terms of the causes of the air crashes so that they find closure? The second question is whether you are in the process of reviewing the regulations on compensation, because the reports we are getting from soldiers and their families, especially the fallen ones, is that these compensations are so inadequate that their loved ones are unable to sustain themselves?”
Kgathi indicated that the compensation is done in accordance with the law and that concerned families are always informed.