Tuesday, October 19, 2021

BDF shoots down special officer’s cross border romance

Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has been caught in the crossfire following a decision by its female officer to marry commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Special Forces Command Lieutenant Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, it has emerged this week.

This comes in the wake of a marriage ceremony between Lieutenant Pauline Galeatle and Hashatsi that was due on 2nd December but has since been rescheduled to a date to be announced. Military sources say that Galeatle is from the Special Forces and her relationship with Hashatsi who is also from Special Forces of Lesotho Defence Force created a dilemma for the army.

It is understood that the issue is viewed as an embarrassment to the BDF because its intelligence operative was recruited while on external mission. 

The question that the BDF commanding was grappling with, sources said was how much did she pass to foreign intelligence agencies.

A Sunday Standard team which had visited the District Commissioner’s Officer in Molepolole was informed by sources close to the matter that the BDF high command and parents of Galeatle held a meeting in Gaborone this week to discuss the matter.

“Their marriage was expected to be solemnized by the District Commissioner on 1st December and the marriage ceremony was expected to be celebrated on 2nd December in Molepolole. But we have since learnt that there a few issues that Galeatle had to iron out with her employer, hence the marriage ceremony had been called off,” said a source.

The bride’s parents declined to discuss the issue with the Sunday Standard team save to confirm that the marriage would not go ahead as planned. They declined to discuss details “because it is still an internal one.” Galeatle could not be reached for a comment.

But Sunday Standard is informed that the BDF high command advised Galeatle to resign from the army if she insisted on her marriage with Hashatsi. Military sources said the BDF was facing a dilemma because the BDF Act is silent on cross-border fraternization.

Responding to Sunday Standard questions, BDF Deputy Director, Protocol and public Affairs Fikani Machola said “in so far as our records are confirmed the person referred to in your enquiry is no longer a member of the BDF as you allege.”

Machola added that “we advise that the said Lieutenant Pauline Galeatle resigned from the BDF effective 01 December 2016.”

Media reports indicate that when the BDF became aware of the relationship between the two, Galeatle, who was based at Thebephatshwa Airbase as a member of the Special Forces, was transferred to Francistown and deployed in the Agriculture and Catering Unit at Donga military base as security caution. Reports also indicate that she was earlier sent to Glen Valley but the BDF command later transferred her to Francistown. Hashatsi is reported to have paid lobola to Galeatle’s family in Molepolole and the two have a child who is less than a year old. It is also understood that former BDF Commander Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe is reported to have rejected an application by Galeatle to be married to Colonel Hashatsi.

Machola explained “…that marriage by officers to any person be it another officer or a non member a regulated by the provisions of Sections 15 of the BDF Act as read with Defence Force (Regular Force) (Officers) Regulation 72 which mandates a written consent of the Commander of BDF, when an officer is desirous of entering into matrimony.”

He said the powers under these provisions are discretionary and as such, it is the disposal of the Commander to take into account the best interest of the organisation and that of the nation in deciding whether to consent or not.

“An officer in the BDF is mandated in terms of the law as cited herein above to seek and obtain express consent and not to notify the Commander,” said Machola. Galeatle is believed to have chosen to quit the army instead of being separated from her fianc├® due to her employment. The marriage is also said to have been a subject of intense discussion among security agencies due to what they perceive to be the controversy surrounding Hashatsi.

Reports further indicate that Hashatsi is one of the army officers implicated in the assassination of former LDF commander Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao. The findings of Phumaphi report recommended that he be removed from LDF.

In December last year, Hashatsi made an urgent court application in Lesotho to have the Commission set aside and to prevent it from making any findings in relation to him.

He argued that the Commission was unlawful and had operated in a procedurally flawed and prejudicial manner. Hashatsi has been implicated in the operation leading to Mahao’s killing and was called to testify before the Commission.

A report by the Southern African Litigation Centre indicates that when he first appeared in court, Colonel Hashatsi was uniformed and armed but on the second day he came unarmed but was escorted by an armed officer. His case was dismissed by Lesotho High Court in February this year. 

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