Sunday, March 7, 2021

BDF bans BCP parliamentary candidate from barracks

Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has banned Botswana Congress Party (BCP) parliamentary candidate for Mogoditshane constituency, MacDonald Rakgare from entering the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) to canvass votes from soldiers. Rakgare and his BCP council candidate for Mogoditshane North ward, Gaborutwe Tshekiso were questioned and warned by members of Military Police not to enter the camp to canvas for votes from soldiers as it is illegal. SSKB forms part of the Mogoditshane constituency. In an interview with Sunday Standard, Rakgare confirmed the incident and said that before he entered he had long been warned by some soldiers that BDF authorities would arrest him should they see him campaigning inside the barracks. He said he nevertheless entered the camp and went through a house to house campaign until some soldiers came and took him to see senior officers.

Rakgare said he was held in a military office for about 2 hours where he was interrogated about his presence at the camp. “They were saying we are campaigning inside the camp and we told them that we were sensitizing soldiers about the coming supplementary voter registration. They told us that the BDF Act prohibits what we were doing and we should hence stop it otherwise we would never be allowed inside the camp,” he said. Rakgare was informed that he would receive a call from senior officers informing him about his ban from the camp. He said SSKB forms part of Mogoditshane and as a parliamentary aspirant he must be alive to issues affecting soldiers. “I can tell you, soldiers have lots of issues, they have been instructed to keep their hair just because the president keeps his hair.

SSKB has a population of 4800 soldiers and there are only 525 houses. There is a serious housing crisis, married men are made to share with about three people,” he said. Rakgare said junior officers were exploited as they have issues regarding their pensions which are unresolved. He said that he will continue speaking to soldiers as there is no law that prohibits him from speaking to soldiers. However, BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Colonel Tebo Dikole refuted reports that they detained Rakgare. Dikole, however confirmed that there was a meeting between “our Provost Marshal, Military Police, Mr MacDonald Rakgare and a BCP councillor (Mr) Tshekiso following the duos political discussions with soldiers soliciting their votes in the upcoming General Elections. They were warned that it is not allowed for any politician or any aspiring politician to address or hold any political gathering in any military garrison.” He said members of BDF are prohibited as per Defence Force (Regular Force) (Officers) Regulation 62 from committing any act constituting active participation in politics.

“Under these regulations, active participation in politics includes the following; joining or being associated with an organisation or movement of a political character; canvassing any person in support of or otherwise actively assisting an organisation or movement of political character; displaying or wearing rosettes, favors, symbols, posters, placards or like- articles having political significance’ attending a political meeting or assembly when wearing Defence Force uniform or any part thereof likely to identify him with the defence force.” However all the regulations cited by Dikole does not prohibit politicians from canvassing for votes from BDF barracks.

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