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Civil personnel sue BDF Commander for stopping allowances

LEBOGANG MOSIKARE
Segokgo. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
FRANCISTOWN: Seven Botswana Defence Force (BDF) industrial class workers have instituted a lawsuit against the Commander of the BDF after he allegedly stopped their payment of committed subsistence allowance.

The seven BDF civilian personnel led by Ogomoditse Mokwadi want the BDF to reinstate the allowance and reimburse them all the monies following the termination of the allowance.

The allowance was paid from 2006 but was terminated in 2015.

Giving his evidence in chief at the High Court this week, Jabulani Notice, the Chief Administration Officer of Civilian Personnel at the BDF told Justice Tshegofatso Mogomotsi that he knew the plaintiffs and they were based at the BDF camp in Pandamatenga.

“… The applicants were employed by the BDF during different dates as industrial class workers. After years went by, I discovered that that they stayed at the Ngami camp. I also discovered that they were paid the committed subsistence allowance because of shortage of decent accommodation.

In 2014, the office of the Commander of the BDF resolved that they were not entitled to the allowance because they were employed at Pandamatenga where there was accommodation. The allowance was stopped in 2015,” said Notice when being led by Oeme Moalosi from the Attorney General Chambers who is representing the Commander of the BDF.

Notice further told the court that another reason why the BDF stopped the allowance was because the plaintiffs stay in houses made of asbestos in Ngami, which poses a health hazard to their lives.

Asked by Moalosi whether the BDF had allocated the applicants houses in Ngami, Notice said that he did not know.

“Industrial class workers from Ngami camp are not entitled to get the committed subsistence allowance. It is believed that they go to work from their homes in Pandamatenga village,” said Notice.

Quizzed by Moalosi if the Commander of the BDF ever made an undertaking to provide the applicants with accommodation, Notice stated that he was not aware if the BDF ever promised to avail accommodation to the applicants.

Notice explained: “For someone to be provided with accommodation, there is a housing policy which is managed by the housing committee. One has to complete application forms of accommodation and then and then hand the same to the committee for determination.

If one is successful, they will be issued with a certificate of proof residence to show that they have been allocated accommodation. I have never seen the certificate of all of the applicants nor their application forms for accommodation. No one can be allocated accommodation without following this procedure.

I am also not aware if there was any agreement between the BDF and the plaintiffs for the plaintiffs to reside where they are currently staying.”

Sometimes in 2015, Notice added, the plaintiffs were asked to vacate the houses they were staying in at Ngami and were expected to relocate to Pandamatenga village.

“…  As far as I know, the applicants were expected to find their own accommodation in Pandamatenga. I am saying that because in 2014, we toured Pandamatenga and discovered that there was accommodation in Pandamatenga, government offices and a shop were the plaintiffs could purchase their needs.

The BDF camp is situated about eight kilometres away from Pandamatenga village… There is an arrangement for a BDF car to take plaintiffs to and from work.”

Under cross-examination from the plaintiffs’ attorney Tshekiso Tshekiso, Notice said that he has never worked or stayed in Pandamatenga.

Asked by Tshekiso if he was privy to who owns the land at Ngami camp, Notice said he did not know.

Notice said: “Assuming that BDF does not own the land, then it does not have a right to evict the applicants from Ngami. The Commander of the BDF is the one who can know if the land belongs to the BDF or not… I am aware that government has declared Pandamatenga as a remote settlement but I don’t know when the declaration was made.

I am also not privy to the distance between Pandamatenga and the next village or settlement… I am also not privy to the home villages of each of the plaintiffs. I am also not aware of how the applicants ended up occupying houses at the Ngami camp.”

He added that he was not in a position

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to state whether the applicants self-allocated them accommodation at Ngami or whether the BDF gave them the accommodation.

When Tshekiso probed Notice to state whether the office of the Commander of the BDF took a decision to stop the subsistence allowance in 2015, Notice answered in the affirmative…

Tshekiso also asked Notice to look at a document in the bulky bundle. The document showed that the BDF undertook to continue paying the applicants the subsistence allowance until it constructed two bed-roomed houses for the applicants. After perusing the document, Notice admitted that the BDF has not honoured its promise of building two bed-roomed houses for the applicants.

Notice said: “Yes I will agree with you that the unilateral termination of the subsistence allowance in April 2015 without first having built two bed roomed houses for the applicants was a violation of their rights…”

Tshekiso also told Notice to look at a letter addressed to one Alice. The letter was also an undertaking by the BDF to Alice that she could indefinitely stay at Ngami camp until the army built her a two bed roomed house.

Notice further admitted that the BDF erroneously terminated the allowance after Tshekiso showed him another letter in the bundle showing that.

Another state witness, Florence Butale, Coordinator for Military Veterans Affairs at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security admitted she knew that the plaintiffs have instituted a lawsuit against the Commander of the BDF.

Butale previously worked at the BDF as Coordinator for Civilian Personnel.

She explained that the Department of Public Service Management (DPSM) is one tasked with the responsibility of sanctioning people who are suppose to receive the committed subsistence allowance.

Said Butale when asked by Moalosi: “In June 2001, the DPSM issued a savingram showing people who are entitled to the subsistence allowance. The allowance can only be given to people who work where there is no decent accommodation.

That is the only requirement for one to get the allowance…I don’t know when the applicants started to receive the allowance but I remember that it was after 2001.”

Asked by Moalosi to explain why she said that the BDF management made a mistake by not properly understanding who should receive the allowance at the BDF, Butale said: “The mistake was that the savingram said that people who are entitled to receive the allowance should be residing in remote areas.

The BDF management saw that the BDF camp in Pandamatenga village was near the village of Pandamatenga where the applicants could find their own accommodation.

We carried out a research in 2014 and found that Pandamatenga was a village with a Kgosi and other facilities that could be used by the applicants.”

Butale also stated that after they consulted the applicants about relocating to Pandamatenga village, they wrote letters to each one the applicants informing them to vacate their houses in Ngami camp to Pandamatenga village but she did not remember the reasons why the applicants never relocated.

After Moalosi showed Butale a 2016 letter written to the applicants to effect that they should remain at the Ngami camp pending their relocation to the Matsiloje base camp, Butale stated that paragraph two of the letter from the Commander of the BDF agreed with the applicants that they should continue to get the subsistence allowance.

Butale however explained: “The BDF Commander arrived at the decision after the applicants pleaded with him to continue getting the allowance while still awaiting relocation to Matsiloje. The commander however told them that there were not entitled to the allowance.”

Under cross-examination from Tshekiso, Butale conceded that all the documents she used as part of her evidence showed that promises were made to the applicants to continue receiving the allowance until two bed roomed houses were built for them. She said:

“I am aware that the plaintiffs accepted the promises even though they did not accept the promises in writing. I am however not aware that once a promise is made then there is a contract…” she said…

Judgment in the matter would be delivered on December 12.



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