Botswana Defence Force (BDF) privates are losing patience with the army high command who they feel are dragging their feet on their promise of salary increments, allegedly made to appease dissident soldiers believed to have started fires that ravaged the country last year.
The privates complained to Sunday Standard that they were excluded from an across the board government salary increment that covered government and parastatal workers. The soldiers explained that after the fires that ravaged the country, and memorandums threatening to break the railway line and derail the passenger train allegedly by dissident BDF members, the army high command promised them a salary adjustment. They complain that the army leadership has not honoured the promise.
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 reviewing BDF corporals’ salaries is not helped by a growing feeling among the country’s green berets that the army high command is not doing anything to address their “poor conditions of service.”
The Sunday Standard has been informed that some soldiers are being forced to sleep in lecture rooms and halls because of shortage of accommodation.
Privates, who asked for anonymity, said soldiers of the rank of private are recruited in large numbers even though there is shortage of accommodation.
“This forces us to illegally rent outside the army barracks because you will find a situation whereby we have been given a hall or lecture room to sleep in. But if we do this without permission and we are caught, it’s a crime that we can be prosecuted for,” he said.
The privates also cited cases in which officers who have been permitted to rent outside the barracks do not have to come for Master Parade while those who have rented without permission are to attend the 5:30 parade, saying this hampers their job delivery and affect morale.
Second Lieutenant Mfaladi, the Protocol & Public Affairs Officer explained that, “no member of the BDF has been neglected on the issue of accommodation. The truth of the matter is that for some years now, we have been experiencing shortages of accommodation due to lack of resources, mainly financial.”
The privates complained that “all the recently graduated Second Lieutenants have been given comfortable accommodation even though they found us serving here without any accommodation.”
Mfaladi, however, explained that the procedure is that, where soldiers cannot be allocated proper residential quarters, or Barracks, the alternative is tent accommodation.
“There are two cadres of employees; that is members of other ranks (from Private to Warrant Officer) and the Officer Corps (from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant General). These two are allocated two different types of accommodation. It is for this reason that the recently graduated female second lieutenants have been allocated accommodation be-fitting their rank. The same has been provided to their male counterparts.”
Another soldier of the same rank who also asked for anonymity for security reasons said this problem is rampant in all campuses, including the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Gaborone and the Donga Barracks in Francistown.
He said another thing that demoralizes them is that they are always on trips with officers of higher ranks who always claim chunks of Pulas afterwards yet the privates never claim a single Thebe.
“If you complain you are either penalized by not being promotion or fired.”
But Mfaladi explained that other ranks are usually provided with meals when they are on trips, while officers are not, adding that other ranks are paid monthly allowance called “Committed Subsistence Allowance” when on trips while Officers claim Subsistence allowance as they buy their own food, hence the difference.