Two years before President Ian Khama’s inauguration, a team of officials including Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers, was dispatched to Mosu to begin construction of Khama’s private holiday compound complete with an airfield at taxpayers’ expense.
Led by the BDF and some officials from Buildings Department, the team put together a multimillion Pula palace in Khama’s private land and an airstrip estimated at around P60 million. President Khama’s holiday home is on the southeastern edge of Makgadikgadi pans a few kilometres from the village of Mosu. The village is a pristine tourist attraction place. Khama is extremely attached to the place, which was at one point in history a dwelling place of the Bangwato. An investigation by Botswana Guardian established that several government personnel were paid overtime while at Khama’s private house, some 15 kilometres from the village. Several people with extensive knowledge of the closely guarded compound measuring 1.1 km by 1.1 km revealed that for the last few years the government machinery and personnel have been used in the construction of the compound.
Khama settled in Mosu in the late 2000, according to the villagers. Prior to the construction of the compound the president frequented the village where he previously used his luxurious presidential caravan as his temporary accommodation. While confirming that BDF was constructing the airstrip in Mosu, the government then flatly denied allegations that the airstrip belonged to president Khama. New information that Botswana Guardian has since gathered and seen shows that sometime in 2006 president Khama was allocated two plots by Letlhakane sub-land to construct a lodge and an airstrip on the south eastern side of Makgadikgadi pans a few kilometres away from Mosu village. The two plots are adjoined. Sources in Mosu revealed in hush tones that Khama’s right hand man Isaac Kgosi who was by then his private secretary appeared before the land board members on behalf of his boss.
A startling admission this week by government spokesperson, Dr. Jeff Ramsay that Khama made a personal request to Letlhakane subland board for the airstrip appears to make a mockery of the government’s attempt to keep its own top secret under wraps. Caught off guard, Dr. Ramsay admitted that the government is aware that “the original request to the [Letlhakane sub] land board for the airstrip was in the name of the president rather than his office.” In what appears to be a desperate attempt to avoid responding to questions, Dr. Ramsay said the airstrip would be located outside the president’s yard on public land for public purposes. Asked why the airstrip was requested in the president’s name in the first place, Dr. Ramsay chickened out.
“I would not want to speculate at this stage, what [is] important is the final status,” said Ramsay. The final status according to Ramsay is that once the construction is complete Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana will register it as a public airstrip. He stressed that the airstrip will not be situated in the president’s compound. Over the weekend Botswana Guardian team visited the proposed airstrip and talked to people familiar with the development. Though no major work has begun, the land had already been cleared to pave way for the construction. According to the media because the airstrip is being built by BDF, no Environmental Impact Assessment has been conducted. BDF and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services are said to be immune from EIA laws.
No boards announcing the nature of the construction have been mounted. The team further found that the airstrip would be located right in the doorsteps of Khama’s Mosu compound. In fact the airstrip is roughly less than 200 metres away from Khama’s compound. Former government officials who talked to this newspaper corroborated this version. “It would be understandable if he has donated the land to the government, but what we know is that we allocated the president the land,” said a source in the subland board.
Meanwhile Kgosi, who is said to have represented the president during the allocation of the two plots, has since refused to comment on the allegations saying that he wasn’t prepared to discuss the president personal matters with the media. “Is he [Khama] not entitled to land like any other Motswana?” he asked