Death of BDF soldier raises questions about training safety

Jimson Kemoreilwe and Dikarabo Ramadubu - BG reporters
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Death of BDF soldier raises questions about training safety

A  shooting incident at Botswana Defence Force training in Ntwetwe Firing Range near Maun resulted in one death, two serious injuries, 3 minor injuries and the army official statement insists it was an accident. “As part of the Botswana Defence Force’s continuous arm specific training, one member of the BDF lost his life and two others are critical after an accident during a basic gunnery course at Ntwetwe Firing Range today 6th July 2016,” reads the statement from the Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Colonel Tebo Dikole.

For now details are scanty, but sources that spoke to Botswana Guardian report that there was an argument between the deceased and his colleagues. “It looks like there was an argument and exchange of words which ended up leading to this unfortunate incident”.  Botswana Guardian was unable to validate this version of the incident with sources immediate to the incident.

Another source, a former military officer revealed that safety at Ntwetwe Firing Ranges is of top priority. He expressed doubt that this could have been a human error because all units and their leaders who use the range know the importance of safety when handling these machines. He suspects it could have been a mechanical fault with the machine adding that continuous inspection of the machines is key especially during training to avert any unforeseen incident.The source further suspects that a mortar from the SK 105 light tanks went off prematurely. The Austrian tanks are said to be old and in the past calls were made for them to be decommissioned. “The tanks are very old,” maintained a source. 

He informed the paper that of late the tanks have been misfiring and therefore have mechanical faults and indications are that the shell from the tank went off prematurely. When further contacted, Dikole rubbished the speculations that were imputing some altercation or defective machines. “What you are telling me is pure speculation; I would not like to speculate because we have expertise that is capable of thoroughly investigating and will ascertain the cause of the accident.  It must be noted that in BDF we have different arms and equipment and our troops are put through military occupational arms specific training.”

Dikole further denied that army tanks were used and revealed that the incident was caused by fixed 120 mm artillery Mortar that has a detachment of six operators. It exploded killing one, leaving two seriously injured and three escaping with minor injuries.
“This was just Artillery Unit training, there were no tanks involved as tanks belong to a different unit called

Armour Unit’’, he said.
He further said they are currently investigating to find out what exactly happened. “I wish to underscore the fact that as much as we put safety first and we regret the death and, or incident, but in our scope of work we cannot completely 100 percent insulate ourselves against injury.  However all the necessary precaution is taken in every stage of our work.’’

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