Mmegi Blogs :: Our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex And Ambiguous Environment
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Friday 20 July 2018, 14:06 pm.
Our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex And Ambiguous Environment

Wishful thing, I suppose, because I had kidded myself into believing that the controversy over the Gripen fighter jet was over and done with. Sadly, last week's Gazette made it clear that the purchase of the Gripens has had to be put aside only because there is, at the moment, no cash available to buy them.
By Sandy Grant Mon 18 Jun 2018, 18:52 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex And Ambiguous Environment

In other words, the views of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), and presumably of key government leaders have in no way been altered as a result of the barrage of counter views that have been expressed. The wish to buy them remains, and this will presumably happen as soon as the economy improves.

But why Gripens and not land to air missiles or missile screens? Once again, therefore, we have to ask of what possible use to the country can these machines be? In 2016 the then Commander of the BDF Lt. General Galebotswe, apparently, told the Parliamentary Accounts Committee that Botswana is living in such ‘a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment’ (VUCA) that the military has to be equipped and ready to defend the country at all times.’ The managing editor of the African Defence Review added to this comment ‘when you look at the regional air threats, to Botswana’s sovereignty, however remote, (like earthquakes) this consideration for Gripens makes sense.’ These comments give me the creeps.

They are infinitely sad and depressing. Let’s take a step back and agree that in the period after Independence this country, surrounded by white controlled states, was undoubtedly trapped in a VUCA environment. But it survived those dangerous years without any means of militarily defending itself.

The country, as a country, was not attacked and it was not invaded. Now that those white minority controlled government have disappeared into the past, and been replaced by friendly black neighbours, we are being told that steps must be taken to defend the country at all times and that there is a need to take seriously the possibility of regional air threats.

Was this really what the freedom struggle was all about? Was it really intended by those engaged in this struggle that hostile white controlled government should be replaced by possibly hostile black governments? Was it intended that those heavily armed white governments should be replaced by heavily armed black governments? Was it not intended that peace should come to a conflict free Southern Africa and that good neighbourliness would replace tension, suspicion, fear? Was it not recognised that huge efforts would be needed if those countries, singly and together, were to bring about the kinds of development that had been denied them during those long dark years. Was it not hoped that a new era would be ushered in? Alas, those hopes are being confounded and many of those who sacrificed so


much must now marvel that it has all gone so wrong.

Imagine, this country, with Lesotho and Swaziland, was known worldwide as one that was profoundly, instinctively peace loving. We must now recognise that this is a part of the past which has now gone. Today we are told that we need to buy fighter jets at vast cost to defend the country from our neighbours because of ‘the regional air threats, to Botswana’s sovereignty (however remote)’.

The comment is unambiguous. If there are no regional air threats today there may be some tomorrow – Namibia might want to extend its boundaries from the Atlantic to the Limpopo, South Africa from the Madikwe to Kazangula. So, the country must arm with the biggest, fastest, most expensive, lethal, sophisticated aircraft available.

 And yes, academics in the near future will be seeking to explain why this country used its diamond wealth on weaponry instead of doubling its efforts to uplift the poorest of its poor? But note that the intention to buy Gripens is to meet the threat of air attack, not attack by land. When the Gripens have been purchased, the militarised minded leaders may well recognise that attack from the land represents an even greater (potential) threat than attack from the air.

And that the necessary steps must be taken to meet it by the purchase of tanks, surface to surface missiles, missile screens and guns. With boundaries of several thousand kilometres, an army of perhaps 50,000 troops would also be required. Taken together the cost would be enormous and would probably bankrupt it. There has to be a way out of this morass, some way of putting an end to those militaristic ambitions. Costa Rica has done it. Why not here? The on-line magazine Seeker explains. In 1948, Costa Rican President Jose Figueres made a symbolic display of bashing a hole into the nation’s military headquarters, Cuartel Bellavista. The compound would be transformed into a national art museum and the military budget would be diverted to health care, education, and environmental protection.

Today, Costa Rica has local police forces, but no national army. When a foreign dignitary comes to visit, the official welcome ceremony consists of school children dressed in the visitor’s national colours-rather than soldiers in formal military dress. Costa Rica also happens to be one of the happiest countries on the planet perhaps related to its lack of a military. Botswana is listed as one of the unhappiest.


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