Botswana Defence Force Commander, Lieutenant General Gaolatlhe Galebotswe nearly lost his cool at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session yesterday when he expressed his concern on rising crime levels following the murder of a soldier in Selebi-Phikwe over the weekend.
General Galebotswe was reacting to a suggestion by PAC member, Dithapelo Keorapetse, that crime levels in the country were not high enough to warrant the intervention of the BDF.
“Crime is not at a crisis level where soldiers have to be seen on the streets. The situation is not alarming,” Keorapetse had pointed out.
To this, General Galebotswe responded: “If I remember very well, there was a time when there were complaints that the police were under-resourced and that the BDF should intensify their crime prevention support. But if the political leadership believes we’re not needed in that area, then we will be happy to stay in the barracks and concentrate on other matters,” he said and added: “I just lost a soldier in Phikwe two days ago who was killed by criminals and that’s how serious we view the crime situation,” he snapped.
Superintendent Victor Nlebesi of Selebi-Phikwe police has since confirmed that a soldier was killed during a Jeff Matheatau festival held at the BDF hall in Phikwe.
The soldier who bled heavily after he was stabbed below the left ear was rushed to the hospital where he was certified dead. “We are holding the suspect in custody while we pursue investigations into the matter,” Nlebesi said.
In other issues, Keorapetse had questioned the legitimacy of the BDF involvement in anti-poaching activities as he said they were not trained to arrest.
He also suggested that shooting and killing citizens of other countries would have a negative impact on diplomatic relations with those countries as reported in some quarters of the media.
Galebotswe however also parried away the suggestions and explained that soldiers who go into anti-poaching operations undergo pre-deployment training.
“We have rules of engagement that we apply in different situations. We apprehend unarmed suspects, but when they are armed there is no limit as to the extent they can use their firearms. So it’s not a situation where you take your time trying to aim at a leg because they don’t do that. They shoot to kill and so should we, under the circumstances,” Galebotswe added.
The BDF Commander explained that when they first got involved in anti-poaching activities in 1987, other countries shunned them. “Today our neighbouring countries have since followed suit and their armies including the South African National Defence Force have also deployed their armies into anti-poaching engagements,” he said.