The Botswana Defence Force Public Affairs and Protocol Officer, Colonel Paul Sharp, says that they are addressing the concerns contained in a letter recently written to their Army Commander Masire by Gaborone attorney, Duma Boko, on behalf of some soldiers.
Sharp was, however, reluctant to say how exactly they are doing that, saying, ”All I can confirm is that we are handling the issue and nothing further.”
Amongst the issues raised in the letter to Masire, Boko said that his clients were all employed on ten-year contracts under which they would serve the BDF and be governed in regard to the general conditions of enlistment as well as the addendum to the general conditions of enlistment, which they signed with the BDF.
In terms of that contract with BDF, they were employed for an initial period of ten years at the expiration of which they would be free to apply for re ÔÇôenlistment, either on the same terms or on a permanent basis.
Failure on clients’ part to apply for re-enlistment would result in the termination of their contract of enlistment, which would have run its course. Non application by each of the clients would result in automatic separation from the BDF at the end of initial contract period.
Since theirs was a contract for a specified duration, Boko said his clients were entitled to either severance pay at the end of every five years or contract gratuity calculable at the end of their contract period.
He said they are also entitled to all rights accruing to every soldier of their rank and station, including the right to be provided with such equipment and machinery as their performance of duties required.
His clients are now at the verge of completing their contracts with BDF and now face difficulties as they are being pressured to re-enlist to renew their contracts with BDF, but nothing is being said regarding their contracts gratuities or severance benefits.
Throughout their period of service they have been paid only half of their committed allowance and the explanation for this was that the rest of their allowance is being applied to the acquisition of tents, equipments for their use whilst on trips.
This has been carried out on all of them irrespective of whether they go on any trips or the regularity of any such trips.
Boko further said that despite the fact they have been working 24 hours a day, they have been remunerated for only 8 hours of a 22-hour monthly cycle. This, the letter said, was in reality inconsistent with their working conditions and is unlawful, unfair and improper.
Boko further maintained that his clients appear to be treated in respect of any terminal benefits they are entitled to as if they were employed on permanent and pensionable terms with the fact of their non renewable contracts being regarded as an unlawful termination by them.
Boko’s letter to Masire said this was “most irregular and unlawful”, adding that the treatment his clients have been and continue to be subjected to as set out above is “unlawful and improper”.
It then further states, “We demand that you kindly investigate the circumstances we have detailed out and revert to us so this matter can be resolved fully and properly for the good of all parties concerned.”