Ruling party Members of Parliament on Thursday broke the ranks with the leadership to support the Botswana Defence Force Amendment Bill tabled by the opposition legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse over the plight of military officers pushed to abject poverty owing to being subjected half salary on interdiction and suspension.
Unlike their counterparts in the civil service, Botswana Defence Force personnel are subjected to half salary on interdiction and suspension pending investigations and eventual trial rendering them hopeless and helpless as they wallow in poverty.
Keorapetse highlighted the debilitating social conditions the BDF personnel have had to go through as a result of their half salary being deducted, arguing such a move defies the court logic of “presumed innocent until proven guilty”.
Contributing to the debate the ruling Botswana Democratic Party MP Billy Buti did not mince words in support of the Amendment Bill, insisting he has such cases of glaring poverty and hopelessness in his constituency amongst the soldiers most whom are his constituents and voters.
“If at least we will have time expeditious investigations and trials such moves will help the situation,” Buti argued, maintaining BDF personnel were forced to engage in criminal activities.
“They will be left with no other option except to be involved in criminal activities as they could not take it anymore,” he further argued, refusing to toe the party line as earlier suggested by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Affairs Eric Molale in his body language contributing to the motion.
The Executive Ministers have the audacity to beat the backbenchers into line traditionally in Parliament, contributing to the debate at hand earlier to show the way of disapproval particularly from the motions from the opposition legislators.
Opposition motions, Bills and questions are taken with a pinch of salt as there are considered political motivated to gain political mileage.
But such a notion did not play itself out on Thursday. MP Polsen Majaga took the floor to support the BDF Amendment Bill which he maintained “does not need a prophet as it is straightforward.”
“Should they (soldiers) be offered the whole emoluments maybe it will teach them (administration) that cases should be expeditiously be resolved,” Majaga insisted, echoing the same sentiments expressed by his party colleague Buti.
To him cases take long to be completed because the authorities “do not lose anything as it is the suspects who lose the more”.
“What is disheartening about this section of the Law is that the money accrued from the period of termination and suspension will be taxed should the suspect be acquitted,” Majaga further argued, before calling on all and sundry to support the Bill.
Molale argued for his part earlier that the job involved high risk and danger too therefore government could not “afford to be reckless to accede to the demands as requested by the Bill.”
“We should not be seen to be encouraging indiscipline by legislating for this Bill,” the Minister said, attempting to sway the BDP MPs.
Molale called for the military personnel to avoid interdiction and suspension as “they are characters of lawlessness and indiscipline themselves.”
For the BDF personnel to be entitled free electricity, water, accommodation and high level of subsidisies as opposed to the civil servants, Molale argued they were compensated their rights.
“Therefore we cannot have a defence force that is likened to the civil service,” he concluded, referring to the wholesome salary offered the civil service as opposed to the BDF personnel.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Slumber Tsogwane painted the Bill by the opposition Botswana Congress Party legislator as ploy for political mileage, insisting “just the same as the civil service was scrapped of the anomaly the administrative way so should be the Amendment of the BDF Act on the matter”.
“The Amendment Bill will be dealt with administratively as was the civil service Act,” he concluded, before Parliament was adjourned.