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 Botswana Air Arm commander visits SAAF

By CO Solomon M. Kotane, and Photos by WO2 Christo Crous, DCSS Photographer

The Commander of the Botswana Air Arm visited the SAAF over the period 7 – 11 Apr 08.

CAF repeated the call for regional co-operation and joint strategic leadership in matters affecting air space. Furthermore, he lamented the loss of skilled personnel to the private sector, specifically aviation industries. He pointed out that countries currently taking up pilots from the military were mainly the Middle East, India, China, Malaysia and Australia.

Lt Gen Gagiano noted that the momentum for regional links already existed, but he hoped that it would be maintained. However, it became obvious during the talks, that Botswana had similar problems as South Africa.

CAF was addressing a five-person Botswana military delegation during a bi-lateral meeting held at the Air Force Headquarters on 7 April 2007. The key objective of the meeting was to explore chances for joint multinational deployments and training, connectivity, interoperability and flying capabilities.

Maj Gen Jefferson Gobuamang Tlhokwane (Air Arm Commander) led the Botswana group. Other members of his delegation included: Col Domcaza Kengaletswe Mokgwathi (Director Aviation Engineering), Col Therego Seretse (Defence Attaché), Lt Col Edmond Ketumile Thamage (Botswana Air Arm 21 Squadron Commander - Helicopters) and Capt Onteboge Archie (Aide-de-camp).

Maj Gen Tlhokwane pointed out that Zimbabwe has trained many troops from the SADC countries. And, at the moment, paratroopers from Zambia are being trained in Botswana.

Botswana, with a population of about 1,8 million people, has a total defence strength of approximately 2 000 troops.

The SAAF delegation, led by Lt Gen Gagiano, included Brig Gen Tsoku Khumalo (Director Air Transport and Maritime System Group, also Accompanying Officer), Brig Gen Hugh Paine (Director Air Capability and Plans) and Capt Lebo Mathekga (Liaison Officer).

Brig Gen Paine provided a brief but clear overview of the SAAF structure and explained the challenges facing the SAAF at the moment. He complained that the defence industries were cutting down on their sizes and consolidating their resources.

Brig Gen Paine also said that the strategic challenges and operations have changed and this has led to altered approaches to training and the terrain philosophy. He emphasized that training was now outward-looking in character. It was, he noted, done in arid areas to prepare crews for peacekeeping missions in the rest of Africa.

Talking about the maladies affecting personnel in the SAAF, he asked how the Botswana Air Arm treated its crew who had become HIV positive? Maj Gen Tlhokwane said, “In the army we don’t know a lot about the disease, but we depend on the advice of medical persons”. He added that: “any person who contracted the disease, would be treated as if he had any other medical condition”.

“We do not have a coherent policy on this matter,” he regretted. However, “If you fly a military aircraft it could be different from flying a civil airline, where you would virtually be sitting in a flying office, whereas a military aircraft you would be expected to make challenging manueuvres”. This kind of swift movements, he reckoned, might pose serious problems for an HIV positive person.

Maj Gen Tlhokwane was born in Kang, Botswana. He finished a BSc Part 1 at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland in 1974. And, in 1977 he completed a Bachelor of Engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, in Nigeria.

The following year, he finished the Air Service Training (CAA Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s Lisence, A & C) in Perth, Australia, and in 1985 he received a Certificate in Personnel Management (IDM). In 2001 he passed a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies in Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in England.

In 1995 he distinguished himself as a student at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama in the United States of America (USA). Moreover, he attended senior courses in Dakar, Senegal and South Africa. He was promoted to a Maj Gen in 2002.

During his career, he received the following medals: Duty Code Order (1992), United Nations Peacekeeping Medal (1993, UNOMOZ), Distinguished Service Medal (1998, DSM), Grand Knight Medal (2004, GKM) and was inducted to the International Roll of US Air University in 2007.

Maj Gen Tlhokwane has been appointed to many senior positions both in Botswana and internationally, including Chief Liaison Officer for the United Nations Operations in Mozambique. Additionally, he had been assigned as head of the Southern African Defence Council’s Advisory Team in Maseru in Lesotho.

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