Members of Parliament (MPs) have called on the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi to review the age of retirement for prisons officers from the proposed 50 years to at least 60 years.
Kgathi presented the Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to Parliament yesterday in which it proposes that a prison officer holding a pensionable post of a rank of warder, sergeant, assistant principal officer, principal officer, assistant superintendent and superintendent shall retire from service upon attaining the age of 50.
These are considered low ranks in the service. However, legislators said the age should be increased to at least 60 years in line with the Public Service Act. They said this is because most of the prison officers holding this post of specified ranks are at low salary scales.
Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi said prison officers have been neglected for a long time despite doing an important security job. He said the officers, especially those in the lower ranks are tasked with dangerous duties of guarding criminals, but there is a mismatch to their remuneration.
“Now, if you say they should retire at 50, they will be destitute the next day upon retirement because they would have not done anything for themselves with what they were earning.
He said the prison officers perform delicate and sensitive duties of guarding prisoners. He said with prisoners deploying sophistication and intelligence, the institution should also have experienced officers to deal with those issues as they arise. “Prisoners are intelligent, so they need people with experience as per the Public Service Act to deal with them.
Prison escapes are high, so there is need to have those experienced wardens at prisons, Goya said. Gabane/Mankgodi MP, Major General Pius Mokgware said he was worried by the welfare of the prison officers. He said although he supported the idea of retiring officers at 50, looking at the demands of the job, they should be paid well to be able to support their families.
He said slow promotions or progression at the prison department has to be addressed as many officers retire before they progress through the ranks. He said this could address the issues surrounding retirement age.