Botswana Government could be sitting on a ticking time bomb by not living up to its promise to pay ex- Botswana Defense Force officers their forfeited leave days and adjustment to their retirement package.
The disgruntled ex-soldiers are not happy that government and the immediate employer the BDF are playing hide and seek with their payments as they have waited for years to be paid their forfeited leave days.
What angers them is that Minister of Defence Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, last year told Parliament that some of them have been paid the forfeited leave days together with the in-service officers.
It is alleged that about 12 000 ex-soldiers around the country have not been paid their forfeited leave days and the files are gathering dust at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks. Some of the officers say their days accumulated to six (6) months.
There is also an issue of adjusting the retirement package for those who leave the force. Initially they were getting 30 percent of their salaries an anomaly that the BDF rectified to align with all public servants where one leaves the service and gets 75 percent of their monthly salary.
Since this has been rectified the affected ex-soldiers have not been given their outstanding dues. Unconfirmed claims suggest that the former army men are owed close to P2 billion. Some of the ex soldiers who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity following their meeting in Mahalapye recently explained that government is not keeping its promise and they are ‘fed up’.
In their own words the tendencies by both BDF and Government to ignore them (ex-soldiers) pose a security threat to the country. “At the time the BDF retirees separated with the Botswana Defence Force, the way things were done, the system impoverished ex-soldiers.
“The majority of members (ex-soldiers) in the Botswana Retirement Fund retired with insufficient incomes and as such their pensions fell short of securing their future. In Botswana, soldiers retire at 52 on average with a pension equal to 30 percent of their final salary,” said a member of the BDF Retired Officers Association (Mahalapye Branch) who is also an ex-soldier.
Another disgruntled ex-soldier who attended the meeting, which was held on the 30th of August 2017 in Mahalapye said, “I have realised that the government is not taking seriously the welfare of soldiers and this could breed revolt in future.
“The ex-soldiers are highly and justifiably aggrieved by the treatment meted out to them by the BDF. The concerns of the ex-soldiers need to be looked into as a matter of urgency because if the soldiers continue to be neglected, the country risks experiencing what we see in other countries.”
According to information gathered the former army men made it clear to the BDF Retired Officers Association Mahalapye Branch Chairman Colonel Senai (Rtd) that they are not happy for being played by their former employer. Colonel Senai is said to have explained that he was informed that the delay was due to the fact that the calculations of the retirees’ benefits was not properly done because the formula used was wrong.
“He told us that he went to the BDF Headquarters to enquire about the delay to pay those retired and said the answer he got was that the committee which was tasked to reconcile the files failed to meet the deadline and requested for an extension by one month which was until end ofÅ August.”
Similar complaints are said to have been raised during the Retired Officers Association Annual General Meeting held in Palapye in May this year but no progress is being made.
BDF Retired Officers Association Chairman Major General Bakwena Oitsile (Rtd) said they are aware of the concerns raised by the former soldiers. He said the committee is doing all in its power to help arrest the situation. Maj. Gen Oitsile explained that unfortunately the BDF is the one with records on individual officers.
“We do not have records of the former army men because they are in the custody of the BDF. We are trying all we can to facilitate and ensure that those affected get what is due to them. One other thing it is not like all the ex-soldiers are owed even though I do not have the figures.
“What I can tell you is that the Commander of BDF has since written to us explaining that while they were working on rectifying the situation they encountered some challenges. They promised us that they are working on the matter and committed to resolving it as soon as possible,” he said.
Maj. Gen Oitsile said he understands the frustrations felt by his colleagues. He said he also heard that the burning contention is that those still in-service have been paid while those who have exited the army have been neglected.
“Well I do not know which formula they were using in paying the in-service officers and not paying ex-officers. That could be clarified by the BDF but as I said the Commander has notified us in black and white about their hiccups,” he explained.
BDF Protocol and Public Affairs Department had not responded by press time to a questionnaire sent to them. Minister Kgathi could also not be reached for a comment. A former senior officer at BDF has explained that the danger of disgruntled officers is that other countries using Botswana’s former soldiers could easily infiltrate the security of the country.
“Because they are not happy they can be easily used because they need money for their daily lives routine. A sensitive issue is the one for adjustment of retirement packages they have to act fast. Some of these guys dealt with security issues. Some of them know the ins and outs of our anti-poaching strategies and that is why here and there you would find that former soldiers were involved in alleged poaching activities with people from outside the country,” he revealed.