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Rebuttal To An Article That Appeared In The Monitor

CORRESPONDENT
The Botswana Defence Force is greatly concerned about an article that appeared in The Monitor newspaper on Monday 13 February 2017 with the heading “BDF ON ATICKING TIME BOMB” 1which is deemed as purely scare tactics to the public.

The author of the article alleges that, “The latest air crash is perhaps a reminder of Airforce wing where most aircraft appear in dire need for replacement in a country where competing interests have been openly hostile to the army’s move   to replace the ageing hardware”.

It is unfortunate that the reporter chose to make such shocking claims without carrying out an extensive research on the impact of age on the airworthiness of an aircraft.

Had the concerned reporter made any enquiry and an in-depth research as opposed to consulting one source, ‘xairforces.net, he or she would have known that the age of an aircraft is not the determinant of its airworthiness.

 It is worth noting that the aviation industry has in the past experienced air crashes involving relatively new aircraft some of which were less than 10 years at the time of such accidents.

The reporter’s failure to contact the BDF at the time of preparing the article makes his or her intentions suspect, as all the misleading allegations contained in the article would have been dispelled with information supplied by the BDF aviation subject matter experts.

Just to show how the article is void of facts, the reporter goes on to purport that some aircraft which he explicitly mentions by make are still in the inventory of the BDF when in actual fact the same were grounded more than twenty years ago.

The BDF wishes to assure Batswana at large that it takes the safety of both personnel and equipment seriously. We carry out regular inspections on the different aircraft in our fleet either on a calendar basis (number of days or months) or hourly basis (after a certain number of hours of operation).

During these inspections, maintenance manuals are followed to the latter and nothing is done that is not stipulated in the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) publications.

In addition to the OEM publications, the BDF also has Engineering Orders and Standard Operating Procedures to augment OEM publications in order to enforce high standards of flight safety in the organisation.

Batswana should rest assured that the BDF air assets acquired using the taxpayers’ funds are maintained and operated by qualified engineers, technicians and pilots. All the engineers working on the aircraft have attended various different engineering courses abroad mostly in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, France, Australia, India and many other institutions abroad. Some of the technicians have also

attended different courses on aircraft maintenance abroad. However, most of our technicians undergo training on basic courses such as Mechanics course and Technician course at our Technical Training School (TTS) at Thebephatshwa Air Base (TAB), where the afore-mentioned engineers are instructors.

Our pilots undergo flying training at our prestigious Flying Training School (FTS) also at TAB, where upon qualification are deployed to different squadrons and qualify on other different platforms or aircraft. The pilots also have opportunities to undergo training abroad at institutions in some of the aforementioned countries.

The misleading article paints an unfair picture of the BDF, which depicts it as a Defence Force that has total disregard for the

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safety of its personnel by constantly exposing its men and women to the risks of operating life threatening aging equipment.

The truth of the matter as already mentioned above, is that the safety of our personnel is of paramount importance and if at any given time an aircraft is found to be not airworthy, such an aircraft would never be allowed to take off.

The article which is full of inaccuracies does not only tarnish the good name of the BDF but also runs the risk of causing unnecessary alarm amongst members of the public, whom it is our duty to protect against external aggression.

 It is advisable that persons entrusted with informing the public such as members of the media should be certain about the subject they are writing on and if they are not the least they could do is carry out a thorough investigation before publishing.

The timing of the article is not only unfortunate but also insensitive given the loss of life that resulted from the recent tragic accident and this is unfair to the families, relatives and friends of the deceased, who are still mourning the passing of their loved ones.

 The reporter alleges that ‘the Botswana Defence force aircraft that crashed immediately after take-off at Mapharangwane, also known as Thebephatshwa Air Base was one of the ageing BDF fleet probably earmarked for replacement’.

The statement insinuates that the victims might have met their untimely death due to the age of the aircraft. Such speculation which attempts to pre-empt the findings of the investigations is not fair to the loved ones who should at this moment peacefully mourn their loved ones without unnecessary worries caused by sensational media reporting.

For the record we wish to inform Batswana that their Defence Force is a professional military establishment that strives to fulfill its mandate of defending Botswana’s territorial  integrity, sovereignty and national interests using all the resources at our disposal without deliberately putting the lives of the proud men and women who serve their country with honour in danger.

Therefore, the recent allegation claiming that the “BDF is on a ticking time bomb” is not only unfortunate but also misleading to say the least. Thank you,

 

Colonel -Tebo Dikole

Director, Protocol And Public Affairs

Botswana Defence Force Headquarters

 

Editor’s Note 

Our article is not preempting any investigations, but only stating the facts, being that majority of BDF Aircraft  as stated  are  very old, the CASA 212-300 that recently crashed  being one of them, and specifically bought 24 years ago. We are sure about our facts that the list of aircraft mentioned in our story are not grounded, contrary to  your letter.

That the BDF has ageing aircraft and equipment is in public dormain, the latest to confirm the status being the Minister responsible, Hon Shaw Kgathi, while defending the budget for the Ministry recently. Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo also underlined the fact that the army’s equipment is ageing, in his latest Budget Speech. The Monitor  is not in any way suggesting that the aircraft crashed because it was not fit for flying.



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