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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The SADC Standby Force Regional Logistics Depot is set to finally get off the ground after member states pledged to contribute a combined US$10 million for the construction of the logistics depot in Botswana.

The Regional Logistics Depot will provide storage, receipt, inspection and maintenance of equipment for all components of the SADC Standby Force.

The SADC Standby Force supports regional peace operations under the African Standby Force Policy Framework. The Brigade, launched in August 2008, is made up of military, police and civilian members from SADC member states. The standby force has the mandate of responding swiftly to restore calm should any conflict arise in the region.

Despite being launched in August 2018, the SADC Standby Force didn’t have a fixed depot to store their equipment.  In an effort to improve this, Botswana donated a piece of land in the village of Rasesa, on the outskirts of Gaborone

SADC has a plan of constructing a regional logistics depot but progress has been hindered because China has not informed the regional bloc whether it would be contributing funds after SADC asked for assistance.

The construction of the regional logistics depot was expected to begin in 2017.

Lack of funds, however, meant that starting date was delayed.

As a result, The Southern Times is reliably informed that the SADC Secretariat wrote to the Chinese government to help fund the project.

During a meeting held in September 2018, SADC’s Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax, presented a proposal on the construction of the SADC regional logistics depot to the Director General of Bureau of West Asian and African Affairs, Office of International Military Cooperation, Chen Liye.

Liye expressed China’s commitment to support SADC in this area, in line with a declaration on peace and security. He indicated that, the sought support can be considered through the existing Chinese grant provided in the framework of peace and security support to Africa.

China is yet to respond to that request.

Last week, however, Botswana's Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, confirmed that member states have pledged to commit US$10 million for the construction of the depot.

Kgathi said this while touring the facility site with Director of the Organ on Defence and Security Affairs at the SADC Secretariat, Jorge Cardoso.

Cardoso informed the minister that phase one of development of the depot, which was the erection of the fence and bush clearing, has been completed. Phase one cost R7 million, The Southern Times has learnt.

Cardoso further said that phase two  of development has started and is at tendering stage. Actual construction is earmarked to commence in May 2020 with the expectation that Initial Operational Capability (IOC) will be attained by 2021 while full operational capability is expected by 2023.

“I commended the SADC Secretariat for the remarkable progress made in the development of the facility. I reiterate the Government of Botswana's commitment to support the completion of the project. I thank Chief Letshwenyo Rasesa, and his subjects for allocating land for the project of such magnitude,” said Kgathi. 

 

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