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Defence ministry mulls ex-military 'paupers' Bill

PINI BOTHOKO
Solders in parade PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
The pauper state of former army officers has prompted the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security to work on aBill that is expected to help improve their welfare.

The permanent secretary in the defence ministry, Matshidiso Bokole, said a majority of the ex-military officers are currently struggling, something that has forced the ministry to come up with a Military Veterans Act to address challenges bedevilling them.

Bokole revealed the plan when addressing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently. She went on to share with the committee one of the ministry’s achievements being the introduction of the Military Veterans Affairs Unit meant to address the welfare of retired soldiers.

She revealed that a majority of ex-soldiers are currently in the streets struggling because they were previously forced to retire early, especially those of lower ranks, and tend to suffer economic hardships.

“Those are issues that even honourable members are aware of through their constituencies.

“We are currently working on a military veterans bill in order to take care of them as the bill will be taking care of their welfare and management of military personnel,” Bokole said.

She added it is possible to do so because in some countries ex-military officers are assisted to start businesses to empower them to take care of their families. 

Bokole said through the use of the military veterans unit, the ministry would explore issues of bringing them together and help them to empower themselves.

She added that it is feasible, especially that in some neighbouring countries like Zambia, with military veterans participating in the development of the economy.  “Most of them are still active because in the past, especially of lower ranks, they were forced to retire whilst in their 40s with very low pensions to invest in their future.

We have been receiving a lot of such complaints against the Botswana Defence Force

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(BDF) from some ex-soldiers. Those are issues that we will be following in order to put the matter to rest,” she said. She added that some ex-soldiers claim that during their active duty they served under the United Nations (UN) and those are some of the issues the plan intends to address.

Commenting on the matter, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tonota constituency, Pono Moathodi said ex-military officers are struggling and are unable to feed their families. He went on to ask the PS if she was aware that ex-militia are suffering with some of them having permanent injuries they incurred during their time as soldiers.

“Bana ba rona ba a sotlega ba bangwe ba kibane ditsebe, gaba utlwe ke medumo ya ditlhobolo, bangwe ba robegile maoto, ke digole mme ke badidi ba nta ya tlhogo, ba bolawa ke tlala. I am reliably informed that from the rank of sergeant downwards they are not pensionable. Some of them represented us very well during the Somalia wars, some represented the United Nations in past wars, but they are paupers,” Moathodi said.

Sharing the same sentiments, Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi said this is a longstanding matter pleading with the permanent secretary to consider meeting with the BDF commander to resolve it. Mmolotsi said the matter has agitated them.

“This is a matter that we should not take lightly anymore. I do not know when it will be put to rest because it has brought a lot of agitation amongst retired soldiers. I believe that it is a matter that the ministry and BDF should interact closely on and put the issues to bed,” Mmolotsi said.



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