Saturday, September 19, 2020

Axed BDF commander breaks silence

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information suggesting that dismissed Botswana Defence Force commander of the ground forces, Major General Pius Mokgware, is an innocent fall guy for the tensions in the army leadership and growing fears of a brewing mutiny by infantrymen.

Major General Mokgware was dismissed earlier this year following a questionable board of inquiry by army commander Lt Gen Tebogo Masire, which marked the highest water mark in the army command’s fears of a mutiny amid the growing unrest among infantrymen who are demanding improved work conditions.

The board of inquiry, made up of Brigadier Morake, Colonel Nkele and Colonel Segokgo investigated a Formation Commanders meeting of 16th January 2010 convened by Major General Mokgware. The BDF commander allegedly received intelligence claiming that Major General Mokgware lambasted the army command for failing to address welfare concerns of army members.

In an interview with Sunday Standard this week, Major General Mokgware broke his silence and explained that the meeting was meant to outline a performance improvement plan to his 16 subordinates and to motivate them draft a performance improvement plan.

“I pointed out to them that the objective should be to address the problems we are currently faced with. I impressed it upon them that they should be very frank and honest when outlining the objectives and should not skirt around issues so that we can effectively enhance the readiness and welfare of our soldiers. I cited as an example that we have a problem of accommodation. We have a problem where soldiers buy their own food at borders because we are failing to provide. I specifically used the pronoun “we” because I counted myself as part of the army command.”

Major General Mokgware told Sunday Standard that, “we addressed issues of low discipline in the army. We also talked about crime, corruption, team work and watched a DVD of Flight to Phoenix”, which is a motivational DVD on team work and productivity.

Major General Mokgware concern for staff welfare is believed to have touched a raw nerve with the army command, which has been facing threats of mutiny from unhappy infantrymen who are demanding better working conditions.

Sunday Standard investigations can reveal that the BDF command promised to increase soldiers’ salaries and improve their working conditions following fires that ravaged the country and memorandums threatening to break the railway line and derail passenger trains allegedly written by disgruntled BDF members.

Mid last year, BDF members told Sunday Standard that their patience was running out because the army command was dragging its feet in honouring its promises.

The BDF Protocol & Public Affairs officer, Second Lieutenant Patrick Mfaladi, told Sunday Standard that, “the matter is internal and confidential. But for your benefit you may wish to know that the BDF is addressing the issue”.

The discontent over delays in addressing BDF members working conditions was not helped by last year’s appointment of Major General Tiroyamodimo to deputy commander ahead of Major General Mokgware, who is his senior. As commander of the ground forces, Major General Mokgware is responsible for up to two thirds of the BDF personnel and his hands on approach not only made him popular with most of the BDF staff members but also gave him first hand knowledge of staff welfare concerns.

The curious appointment of Major General Tiroyamodimo to the position of Deputy Commander ahead Major General Mokgware who was his senior is understood to have stoked tensions within the army command.

The army commander, Lt Gen Masire called Major General Mokgware to a meeting on January 22 where he accused him of lambasting the army command and of poor working relations with Major General Tiroyamodimo.

Major General Mokgware denies both charges saying, “I do concede that there was a difference of opinion between me and the Deputy Commander, but strongly disagree that it could be said to be deteriorating, let alone affecting performance and execution of the BDF mandate. I have never failed in the discharge of my mandate to this organisation and will never allow my personal differences with a colleague to affect my main duty to the Government of Botswana.”

However, in an organisation chocking under an air thick with suspicions, mistrust and fears of a mutiny, the army command seems to have read a sinister motive into Major General Mokgware’s concerns for staff welfare: that he wanted to incite a mutiny.

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