Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is expected to soon write a letter to Swedish Government requesting to be availed all transactional information regarding the purchase of Gripens by Botswana Government.
This follows a series of engagements by the UDC with the Swedish Government through its representative based in South Africa. The UDC petitioned the Swedish government in May this year and last week UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando revealed that they had met in the morning of that Wednesday with the representative to give them an update.
He said the representative has assured them that the Prime Minister has received the petition and it is being debated. Botswana Government has expressed interest in the acquisition of the ultra-modern Swedish mode Gripen JAS 39 fighter aircraft, manufactured by SAAB. Botswana allegedly intends to acquie between eight and 12 of these aircraft. The Gripen JAS 39 aircraft is an ultra-modern and very advanced fighter, even by European standards that military aviation experts say the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) neither needs nor can afford. UDC President Advocate Duma Boko has indicated that they would be writing to the Swedish Ministry of Defence to request all details that are not classified. According to the UDC leader they would be taking advantage of the Swedish law on transparency. “In Sweden a citizen can demand any form of information from an official and that information has to be availed. An officer can be prosecuted for refusing to avail such information. So it is in this regard that we would explore this avenue to request to be furnished with information on any transaction that involves Botswana’s Government. “We want all the information regarding the buying of the Gripens as long as it is not classified,” said Advocate Boko who indicated that they would not ask for such information in Botswana because they are alive to the fact that government would not avail it.
“Here we know we would not get anything because everything in our country is classified. We are approaching the Swedish government because there, they are transparent. We know we will get such information on these transactions,” he stated. UDC wrote a petition to the Swedish Government titled ‘Botswana Arms’ race in the midst of poverty, massive unemployment and social inequality. The petition protests Botswana government’s ongoing and planned military spending. Boko stated in the petition that their plea as representatives of Botswana's political parties and civil society is for the Swedish Parliament not to approve the sale of these fighter jets to the government of the Republic of Botswana as it is not in the national interest to do so.
“Our position is that military spending must be kept to the barest minimum, and Botswana's meagre resources should be used to build better infrastructure, such as water and electricity supply, in order attract foreign investment, reduce poverty, unemployment, social inequality and reward labour productivity, especially in the public sector,” he wrote. The UDC leader observed that since 2008, with the arrival of General Ian Khama as Botswana's president, the country's national security' expenditure has been on the increase. He cited the Stockholm International Peace Research (SlPRl), which records that Botswana's military expenditure jumped from US$ 292 million in 1998 to US$ 377 in 2008 to US$ 436 in 2015 (at constant 2014 prices and exchanges rates). “According to the more recent National Development Plan (April 2017-March 2023), Botswana is planning to spend about fifteen (15) percent of its GDP on what is labeled 'Territorial integrity'. lt is estimated that about half of this will go towards the acquisition of the ultra-modern Swedish mode Gripen JAS 39 fighter aircraft, manufactured by SAAB.”