Selebi-Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse has said government should review compensation given to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) fallen soldiers' families.
Keorapetse said many soldiers have lost their lives on duty due to air crashes, but the compensation paid out by the BDF is inadequate to support the army men and women’s surviving family members. This, he said without stating how much compensation goes to the BDF soldiers’ families after they die from the crashes.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) legislator said whilst it is difficult to deal with losing a loved one, families go through the pain of also losing breadwinners. “The compensations are inadequate to support the survivors. Why not review it so that those whom they live behind can get support?” he asked rhetorically.
Keorapetse had asked the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi to state the number of air crashes including aircraft that crashed in the last 10 years, the fatalities and injuries, if the crashes and their causes were investigated and the formula and laws used to compensate the fallen and injured soldiers. He also asked Kgathi what is being done to avert the situation. Kgathi stated that all those who lost their lives in the course of duty, or get injured, are compensated accordingly.
“The formula is calculated in accordance with Regulation 59 (1) if the Defence Force (Regular Force) (Officers) Regulations, read with First Schedule of this regulation; Regulation 47(1) of the Defence
He said that the guiding regulations could be amended from time to time. According to Kgathi, six BDF soldiers have lost their lives in eight crashes flying nine BDF aircraft in the last 10 years, one of which involved a collision between two BDF aircraft.
Kgathi said that investigations were conducted to determine the cause and appropriate interventions for preventing a repeat of similar incidents. “Of the eight crashes, six were due to pilot error, whilst two are still under investigation,” he said. Moreover, Kgathi said whilst accidents do occur, the BDF takes the safety of both man and machine seriously by subscribing to the highest safety standards in relation to the operations of its air assets.
He said the aircraft are maintained regularly on a calendar basis or hourly basis in line with the Original Equipment Manufacturer.
He also said that officers are given regular on-the-job-training and up-skilling through the BDF Flying Training School; the Pilot Conversion Programmes at all flying squadrons. Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, thereafter asked about the credibility of the investigations and who conducts them, to which Kgathi said investigations are conducted internally and he has no doubt about their credibility.