A number of police officers who recently completed an operation in Phakalane say they are victims of discrimination after they were informed that they will not be paid commission for working outside their station. Operation ‘Sting’ was aimed at suppressing crime in Phakalane and ended last month following 10 months of extensive surveillance in wealthy Phakalane suburbs and surrounding areas. Over 50 officers participated with around 30 drawn from outside Selebi Phikwe and Serowe. These officers were paid a commission of P1400 after every two weeks and pocketed a total of P28 000 during the entire operation.
Those drawn from Gaborone police stations were not extended similar gesture from Botswana Police and complain that it is unfair and discriminatory. Their main gripe is that their bosses are applying double standards as they had previously paid Gaborone-based officers during operation Kgogolamooka, which ended in October 2011. “We have been over worked and we got nothing,” fumed an irate officer who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation. “Some used their vehicles because Botswana Police Service did not have enough. We worked under extreme working conditions,” he complained.
Sting was known to be a fierce and brave operation which police bosses at Head office say managed to quell escalating crime in Gaborone. But officers complained that their welfare was heavily compromised. “One officer from Botshabelo Police station died while in operation,” revealed the source. Special Constables are said to have been the most affected. “They were overworked. They walked long distances and now have swollen feet.”
Sub Inspector Gape Lejage died in his tent at Village Telecommunication Branch in Gaborone. Sources say he was not given enough time to rest and complained of chest pains. Assistant Commissioner Kago Marage of Broadhurst Police Station who dispersed officers on the 18th of December 2012 - two days after Lejage’s death - said he was not aware of the incident.
“I am not aware of the death and I am not aware of their concerns,” he said simply. “They should not be cowards, they should come forward,” he advised.The source said when the operation commenced in March 2012, they were promised commissioned allowance, three months into the operation. Operational Order spells out how officers who work outside station are recognised. But it is not clear why the document remains a highly guarded secret. The source said they were not given access to the document. “They refused with the document, they just read out for us,” he said. “It said we will be paid. Others in similar circumstances have been paid before,” he cried.
An officer (name withheld) who participated in operation Kgogolamooko told Botswana Guardian that they were entitled to P1400 after every 15 days of service even when they worked in Gaborone. He was paid in excess of P15600 after six months. Marage refused to discuss the Operations Order, directing Botswana Guardian to its public relations office. However, Deputy Police Commissioner, Operations, Bruno Paledi dismissed concerns that officers stationed in Gaborone are entitled to allowance. “We are in an economic crisis. Government does not have money,” he explained.
“These people have wild dreams about payment How could we pay somebody for working in Phakalane while he is stationed in Gaborone?” he wondered loudly. But when it was put to him that during operation Kgogolamooko in 2011, officers claimed P1400 every fort night, Paledi remarked; “You can not correct a mistake by making another mistake. This is malicious and tarnishes the image of the police service.”
In his view, Botswana Police service has robust structures and respect officers who perform duties in and outside station. Huge disparities exists between Botswana Defence Force and police over budget allocation. Data shows that combined recurrent and development budget for Botswana police stood at P1.5 billion in the 2011/12 financial year and is expected to remain in the same region in the coming financial year.