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Botswana - Military Spending

Military expenditure in Botswana has risen steady in the past two decades from US$34,3 million in 1985 to US$228 million in 2003. Botswana was among the top five biggest defense spenders in Africa, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). SIPRI ranked Botswana at number 86 out of the 154 countries in a 2014 study on the value of military equipment purchases. The BDFs purchasing budget rose from P574 million in 2010-2011 to a proposed P627 million in the current one, with most of this directed at aircraft, vehicles and other equipment, as compared to maintenance.

Botswanas decision to increase its expenditure on the military was condemned February 4, 2016 by an organization that represents the voice of private sector called Business Botswana. Responding to Finance Minister Kenneth Matambos announcement that the defense budget in the 2016/17 financial year will be increased, Business Botswana said such increment was unnecessary considering the current tough economic environment. The organization further blasted governments increased spending on the military, saying it was not reflective of the prevailing economic hardships.

This was in response to an announcement by Matambo that the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security had been allocated the largest share of the national budget at P3.59billion (about $262 million). This will mainly cater for provision of defense equipment, communication equipment, and infrastructure in order to improve BDFs defense capabilities, said Matambo said when delivering his budget speech.

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) requested a budget increase to cater for the procurement of military hardware and air defense missile systems. The BDF command had been in negotiations with European multinational company MBDA Missile Systems for procurement of the Mistral air defense missile system an infrared homing surface-to-air missile, as well as the VL Mica missile air defense system, for a combined cost of about P5billion. The purchase will make Botswana the only country in Africa with a VL Mica missile air defense system and one of only four in the continent with a Mistral air defense missile system.

Despite an anticipated deficit budget, Parliament was asked to approve a P7,5 billion spending spree on the Botswana Defence Force Sunday Standard investigations revealed. Preliminary budget estimates indicate that the BDF budget for the current financial year would go up by P3, 5 billion to P7,5 billion compared to the P 4 billion in the last fiscal year. The bulk of the money will go towards the procurement of military hardware for the BDF. About P5 billion (Euros 400 million) will go towards the purchase of Air Defence Missile system from France.

There is no threat of a possible air attack against Botswana to warrant the expensive procurement. The first ever air attack in Botswana was in the 1930s by a British hawker Hurricane fighter plane dispatched by the British colonial administration to quell an uprising in Thamaga by Kgosi Mosielele. The second air attack was in May 1985 by Apartheid South Africas helicopters at Sir Seretse Khama base in Mogoditshane. The only time Botswana Defence Force had to use an anti aircraft missile was in 1987 against a piper Cherokee civilian plane which had strayed into Botswanas airspace.

Botswanas military spending since the early 1990s raised questions in the region and sparked some political controversy in the country itself, but Botswanas Executive Branch had not formally explained its rationale to Parliament or the public. However, it is not difficult to identify several likely motivations. Memories of the 1970s and 1980s still rankle, when bellicose neighbors violated Botswanas sovereignty with casual impunity. Despite the growing regional cooperation in the 1990s, Botswana has unresolved issues with all proximate states. Also, with the exception of Zambia and Namibia, other nearby states [Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe] have much larger military establishments than Botswana.





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