What’s love got to do with BDF – couple asks

BDF couple Kozondu Uariua and Thabang Tlhapisang
BDF couple Kozondu Uariua and Thabang Tlhapisang

Former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) employees who were dismissed for allegedly contravening the military’s Policy on Fraternisation and Sexual Harassment, have launched a suit against the army.

Thabang Tlhapisang and Kozondu Cisquo Uariua are seeking the review of their charges and their subsequent dismissal from military duties.

The two were accused of engaging in an inappropriate relationship sometime in 2012.

 They were each charged on August 22, 2014 with a single count of contradicting the BDF Act. They were both dismissed from the military two months later.

Tlhapisang was a 2nd Lieutenant while Uariua was a private based at the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB).

In their amended notice of motion lodged through their attorney, Malcolm Gobhoza of Duma Boko Attorneys and filed on August, 14, 2015 the couple is challenging the policy that was used to dismiss them from employment.

The cited respondents are Commander of BDF, Deputy Commander of BDF, Lt Col. Watipa Abel, Lt Col. Oduetse Gaolapise, and the Attorney General.

Tlhapisang contends in her founding affidavit that the manner in which they were both convicted and sentenced was unlawful and unsubstantiated by any law. She further agues that even the disciplinary proceedings against them were delayed by two years.

“The decision of the Deputy Commander, Lt Col. W. G Abel and Lt Col. O. G. Gaolapise, which was later endorsed by the Commander of the BDF to convict and sentence me and Uariua emanated from the events of 2012, more than two years before the said charges were raised against us.

This unreasonable delay in the respondents to charge us infringed on our rights and the disciplinary proceedings we were subjected to. It would be unjustified for the respondents to subject us to disciplinary proceedings and eventually punish us in 2014 for the acts committed in 2012.”

She said the allegations laid against them by the military, that they had contravened the provisions of Section 65 of the BDF Act could not stand because the provisions did not state that engaging in a relationship with a colleague was a punishable offence.

Tlhapisang charged that there was no BDF regulation, which prohibited any inter-soldiers relationship and that the said policy was unlawful.She maintained that the policy was not a known part of regulations of BDF, therefore its application raised questions.

“In the event that the said Policy on Fraternisation and Sexual Harassment is valid and lawful, the provision in question will not pass the non-discriminatory Constitutional requirement, as it unjustifiably discriminates against commissioned officers from having relationships with other members of the force unlike their counterparts who are enlisted personnel.

“In any event, the provisions of Section 65 of the BDF Act state the possible sentences which accrue once the same has been contravened and being dismissed or discharged is not included in that section, hence the commander acted outside his powers and scope by dismissing us,” she says. Tlhapisang further argues that the manner in which the BDF management handled the matter was unprocedural and unlawful, and amounted to a double punishment for the same offence. This, she argued, is contrary to the double jeopardy principle thus far unjustifiable, irrational, unlawful and needed to be reviewed.

The affidavit further reads “the commander’s decision to dismiss me and discharge Uariua was irregular, irrational, wrongful in that he failed to state how my conduct of engaging in a relationship with Uariua had shown that I am not fit to hold my presidential commission, as such does not in any way affect the manner I perform my military duties or any of my assigned roles.”

Represented by Tshepo Kgaswanyane, the respondents represented intend to challenge the amended notice of motion before the case merits citing irregulaties.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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