Defence leaves everything to Hage

Ministry of defence says matter is being handled at the highest levels of government, choosing not to interfere.

16 November 2020 | International

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK



The ministry of defence has refused to be drawn into a shooting incident involving the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), saying it would leave everything to President Hage Geingob and his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi, who have already started discussing the matter.

Four men - three brothers and their cousin - were shot dead last week Thursday by the BDF, which claimed the men had entered Botswana through an illegal entry point to poach wildlife.

BDF's former commander of ground forces Pius Mokgware was on Wednesday quoted in Botswana media saying his country had on numerous occasions asked that neighbouring countries assist in tackling poaching in the region jointly.

The BDF has stuck to its guns, maintaining that the four men were poachers, while the Namibian family of the deceased condemned the actions of the BDF and claimed that they were well-known fishermen and did not have any weapons in their canoe when the incident occurred. The family has further questioned why the BDF did not arrest the four men instead of shooting them.

Botswana has a shoot-to-kill policy when it comes to poaching.

No comment

Ministry of defence spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Petrus Shilumbu said the matter was being handled at the highest levels of government, opting not to comment.

“The incident is being discussed at high level. Let us leave these things to our principals. Let the high level deal with it,” Shilumbu said on enquiry.

President Hage Geingob has informed the family of the deceased men that a joint investigation has been initiated between the governments of Namibia and Botswana and that he had spoken to his counterpart, Mokgweetsi Masisi, about the shooting.

Shilumbu was also asked about claims made by Mokgware that Botswana had always implored neighbouring countries to assist in combating poaching. He would not be drawn into responding, reiterating that high-level government talks were taking place in the aftermath of the incident.

“Recently we lost a very good soldier from the bullets of poachers and they did not bother to assist us to locate the killers,” Mokgware said.



Internal matter

Mokgware has said that Botswana does not owe Namibia an explanation and that it was not Masisi's place to share internal matters with Geingob.

Mokgware said the deceased had been killed in a classified security area, justifying the actions of the BDF.

“The president of Botswana should have told the president of Namibia that he does not discuss our internal affairs with foreign governments. Those four individuals were killed in Botswana in a classified security area at 23:00. They entered the country illegally at an illegal point of entry,” Mokgware wrote.

Mokgware further justified the actions of the BDF saying it was not a trigger-happy force.

“The BDF is a professional army with clear rules of engagement. They are not trigger-happy, as some people want to portray them,” Mokgware said.



Joint effort

Geingob this week met the family of the slain men at State House and informed them the two countries had agreed to carry out a joint investigation into the killings.

Geingob told the grieving family that consultations would continue until the investigation was completed.

Geingob said Masisi expressed his condolences to the bereaved family.

Home affairs minister Frans Kapofi said the family would be allowed to observe the autopsy in Francistown, Botswana.

The family was also informed that a state pathologist from Namibia would be travelling to Francistown and would be part of the process.

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