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Tougher military rules sail through Parly

Riot act read: The new Act raises penalties on sexual harassment and others
Legislators have approved amendments to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Act which will, amongst others, toughen rules around insulting the President, fighting, intoxication, swearing and sexual harassment.

Under the amended BDF Bill, BDF members will face jail terms for using ‘contemptuous language’ to the President, Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, and others. Soldiers will face jail terms for using provoking or ‘reproachful words or gestures’ to others, for fighting and quarrelling, not reporting those who challenge others to a fight, using obscene language to superiors and others.

The amendments provide for maximum sentences of two years after court martial for soldiers engaging in fraternisation.

The new rules also introduce a new section for sexual harassment, which is defined broadly.

Presenting the Bill on Tuesday, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi said the amendments would also introduce the offices of the Judge Advocate General and the Director of Military Prosecutions. 

He said this provision is important as it ushers in a system where the commander would no longer be an investigator and a judge in cases against BDF members.

“The improvements are

aimed at ensuring proper administration of justice and appeals processes within the Force,” he said. The amendments also revise upwards the long outstanding issue of low retirement thresholds for members of the force.

Kgathi said the upward revision of retirement ages would have the effect of retaining experience and reducing the skills loss of highly educated, skilled and experienced personnel within the organisation.

He said the BDF Act had not been reviewed since its enactment in 1977 and it has become necessary to develop a new military law relevant to the contemporary operating environment.

He said the amendments would address the legal and administrative issues unique to the military, the current and future organisational growth, the changed mission requirements and would also ensure that the provisions of the BDF Act are not at variance with other laws of Botswana. Legislators welcomed the Bill wholeheartedly saying it would help soldiers to “enjoy” their job.




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