As Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe bid the army farewell yesterday (Thursday) some retired BDF officers have dismissed government’s claims that they have been paid their leave days amounting to thousands of Pula.
This comes after Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale on behalf of Minister of Defence Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi recent remarks that retired and serving members of the BDF have been paid their forfeited leave days. The retired officers are said to be owed a lot of money running into thousands of Pula depending on how many days one had from the time they joined the army to the time one left.
The forfeited days are said to have not been included when the officers were paid their retirement packages. Minister Molale told Parliament during the winter session that the percentage base charged was the equivalence applicable to all public officers’ monthly income taxes. “The exercise targeted in-service members because retirees and those who were terminated were paid all outstanding leave days. The exercise to repay forfeited leave days had no link to the sale of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation shares, but it was rather a correction of an omission and payment to those entitled”, the minister told Parliament.
This week some of the retirees told Botswana Guardian that the minister has misled the nation about this issue. The officers revealed that they came to learn about this after they saw an article in the Botswana Daily News of the 15th August 2016. “It is surprising to hear the minister misleading Parliament that we have been paid. All we know is that only those who are in service have been paid not us. In April this year we were requested by the BDF to avail all our details including bank details so that when they are done with payment for in service officers then they would process our payments,” said a former army general who has served for over 20 years.
He further stated, “As we speak we are still waiting for response from them.”Another retiree stated that there is no way the minister could say they have paid them when the system to pay for forfeited days came into effect this year. He indicated that they feel neglected because they are no longer in the service. The former Warrant Officer 1 revealed that there are some former senior officers who had fought to ensure that they are paid. “It is only that some of us do not know who to approach. There are many of us around the country who are still awaiting our funds. The money varies- like for me it dates back to when I joined the army in 1990. So you will have to calculate from that day until the 31st of December 2015, which was the cut-off date when the system for payment of forfeited days was introduced.”
BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Lieutenant Colonel Fikani Machola said conditions of service and remuneration for members of the BDF including those retired are purely internal and administrative. Machola stated that review of conditions of service just like productivity only has a beginning but no end. “Therefore, the process of reviewing conditions of service for members of the BDF are still on-going and will be in the interest of the incoming commander,” he revealed in an interview.