The Commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo has said that HIV/AIDS amongst soldiers could degrade readiness of the army.
Segokgo made the remarks following concerns from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members on allegations that the BDF recruits are being denied the right to be absorbed into the army because of their HIV status.
"I don't get to know medical conditions of my officers, I just receive a notification of an officer being unfit for duty. I cannot and have never asked for their HIV status. I do not know whether recruits are denied the opportunity because of their HIV status. However, my responsibility is to produce an army that is ready to face different situations and HIV can degrade readiness," Segokgo said.
He however, said that there has been an argument that testing HIV positive does not mean that a person is sick adding that some of the investments in training officers are costly hence there is an argument against investing in someone who might soon be unavailable due to ill health.
He further admitted that the army does employ recruits who do not meet height requirements due to the work equipment they use, which cannot be operated by short people. Segokgo also stated that they have been returning those with tattoos because such body marks (tattoos) are associated with criminals and gangsters hence would not sit well with the image of the army.
"I agree that today's youth regard tattoos as body art hence the need for the army to reflect on it and probably stop using them as a requirement during the vetting process," he said.
Tonota legislator, Pono Moatlhodi had raised a concern that the majority of the youth are not pleased with the recent BDF recruitment exercise because there were allegations that some were not absorbed due to their HIV status, height while yet others could not make it due to tattoos.
Moatlhodi said the vetting process worries him because there are no jobs and the BDF is where the youth could hired in numbers to be taught discipline.