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BDF fights Police, Prison over salaries

Publishing Date : 10 February, 2020

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

The inferno that gutted a 25 man barracks block that housed members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) at Village Garrison, is heavily linked to the ongoing cold war between the soldiers and their police and prison counterparts.


WeekendPost has established that ever since the de-linking process earlier last year where all the disciplined force members received a windfall of going two notches up from their scales, there has been lament from the junior BDF members. At the top of the query of the juniors, is the fact that despite the de-linking, they are still at the base of the pay structure as compared to their peers from Botswana Police Services (constables) and Prison’s (warders). The contention is, all the junior officers’ wages should be equal, sources say.


“So this week’s fire at Villages Garrison is heavily linked to that issue. The senior members believe that this could have been part of juniors venting out their grievances,” one senior member of the Force told WeekendPost this week. For now the junior officers who are now on B1 salary scale contend that they should also be on the C3 scale just like constables and warders who at their respective institutions are the lowest in the hierarchy. Before the 2019 delinking exercise, Privates were on B3.


“They hoped they would have been listened to but the seniors have continued to turn a deaf ear on them and it has left them more frustrated,” added a source at BDF. It is however emphasized that the juniors have not channelled their displeasure through the right channels fearing it might be interpreted as indiscipline. This is said to be making their case even difficult to attend to. With these, this publication is also informed that there is a suggestion within some army officers that, positions of lance corporal and corporal, be scrapped off.


“Look, Lance Corporal is getting what constables and warders are getting but if you look at the years, you will find that he has been practiced long before the two could even join. So if the army can do away with both lance corporal and corporal ranks then we are only have Private then it will be clear that from there you go to Sergeant as it is the case with police,” one junior member who asked for anonymity proposed. Lance Corporal Cadres are on C4 scale which is also below that of constables and warders.


The government is also advised to avoid this confrontations and should streamline all the ranks within the three arms and ensure that salaries are the same to avoid the disparity. To this end those proposing this say, a BDF Commander should be paid same as police and prison peers and this should go down all the ranks.


The de-linking of pay from rank was simply designed to recognize and place the disciplined force members at par with their counterparts in the public service and to afford them similar remuneration both at entry point and during their progression, adding that it is also geared towards retaining personnel. BDF has for a long time been treated as the most senior of Police and Prison and it is disturbing for their staff members to be paid low compared to others, says some members.


The soldiers are of the view that their Commander Lt Gen Placid Segokgo should address them on this matter. The junior concur with their boss and legislator Major Pius Mokgware who once cautioned government against not providing low ranking soldiers with decent salaries and proper conditions of service citing it as a “security risk.”


“The last time we were addressed was prior to the delinking exercise and before then no one can say he remembers us meeting with our commander and it is not right because we have a number of issues that we want to talk with the leadership,” another junior soldier said.
In its response to enquiries sent by Weekendpost, BDF through Major Monty Malomo from Directorate of Protocol and Public Affairs referred this reporter to the Permanent Secretary to the President circular No 1 OF 2019 for information on the salary scales of members of the Defence Force.


“Salaries of BDF members are determined by the Defence Council as per section 24 (1) of BDF Act No 3 of 2018,” Major Malomo answered and added. “The Commander of the BDF addresses troops from time to time and he will continue to engage them as he always emphasises engagement with subordinates on a regular basis.”


Concerning the burning of the Village Garrison, the BDF said has nothing to share other than what is contained in the press release. The release was only detailing that a 25 man barracks block was gutted by fire on Monday at 07:30 and that no casualties was reported with only personal belongings destroyed.


BDF WARNS FAT SOLDIERS

In terms of the military power, Botswana is ranked 19 out of 34 countries that have been assessed in Africa. A United States (US) site, Global Fire Power (GFP) recently published its 2019 index of powerful militaries in Africa. Botswana is sitting on spot no. 19, which is very low when put together with her counterparts, that is, she is behind countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Sudan amongst others.  Although relatively ranked low by the power index, the Botswana military wing, Botswana Defence Force (BDF) prides itself that, today, it stands amongst a handful of militaries on the continent that were truly home grown.


Following last year’s report that BDF is one of the weakest armies in Africa, a decision to strengthen the force has been taken. Members of the BDF have been cautioned over failure to pass physical tests as most of them are mostly overweight. Failure to pass the routine physical, one will have to show cause why before a selected panel of jury assessing the fitness of the BDF personnel.

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