Less than a year in operation, the controversial Botswana Defence Force fleet of Landrovers bought for P161 million from the United Kingdom is facing mechanical challenges.
The 500 second-hand Land Rover 110 Defenders started arriving in the country during the last quarter of last year in batches via Namibia. The last batch is allegedly expected to arrive this year. The procurement of the obsolete vehicles was allegedly spearheaded by Office of the President early last year and BDF played no major role save for viewing and collection at Witham (Specialist Vehicles) Ltd - a UK second seller.
Although the OP refuted playing part in the agreement to purchase units of the Defenders LR110 4×4 SUV for the BDF, at a cost of P161.9 million, it has been at the centre of the controversial procurement. According to sources at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (BDF Headquarters) the Landrovers have now become a liability to the BDF within a short space of time. It is alleged that most of the Landrovers which were dispatched in areas such as Plateau and Linyanti have broken down and were towed back to Kasane. The vehicles were dispatched for patrols in those areas.
BDF Director, Directorate of Protocol and Public Affairs Colonel Tebo Dikole has confirmed that the Landrovers are experiencing mechanical problems. “BDF last year procured what is labeled as EXCESS DEFENCE EQUIPMENT from the United Kingdom (UK) Military. Excess Defence Equipment is equipment disposed by an army, in this case the UK Army as a result of downsizing.
“This equipment ranges from never used to hardly used. Some of the Landrovers were never used and others had mileages between 7000km to 50 000km. It is common knowledge that sometimes equipment, whether military or not that has not been in use for a while will likely display some form of minor mechanical faults that require minimal repairs,” said Colonel Dikole in an interview.
The Landrovers are said to have started experiencing mechanical problems and some of the parts that have been procured do not match the specifications of the vehicles. Some of the vehicles are said to have only been in use for less than four (4) months before they broke down. According to sources some of the parts that have been procured are stock-piled at the barracks and have been rendered useless.
It has been estimated that the parts have cost the BDF close to P30 million. Colonel Dikole stated that any fleet - new or used - remains susceptible to mechanical failures as well as wear and tear. “In all our operational areas, which are in rugged terrain, the BDF cannot insulate its equipment against mechanical challenges coupled with wear and tear that result from such hostile environments,” said the BDF spokesperson.
According to Colonel Dikole it is against this background that service support is provided in operational areas, and if this fails vehicles are backloaded to the nearest repair facility. He refuted claims that there is a stockpile of spares amounting to close to P30 million.“The fact of the matter is that only parts worth P1, 8 million were procured and contrary to your claims are not stockpiled, as they are used to maintain the vehicles. Please note that as a cost saving measure the best international practice is for militaries to consider excess defence equipment in the constant review of their inventory.
The Landrover fleet procured last year has augmented the existing fleet and this has enhanced our operational reach,” Colonel Dikole pointed out. According to reports production of the Land Rover 110 Defender has ceased in the United Kingdom and has been phased out of military service in both the UK and Botswana.