Botswana Police Officers? working conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny from Members of Parliament as officers hand in their badges in droves while crime is surging.
In the week that Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, described as ?a theatre? of debates about the state of the police service, Member of Parliament for Palapye, Boyce Sebetela, filed three questions querying the goings on at the Botswana Police Service.
Sebetela on Thursday asked the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration ?what special measures are being put in place to enhance the capacity of the Botswana Police Service in the areas of Forensic Science and intelligence, in order to meet the challenges of rising crime.?
The Minister never had the chance to sit down or switch off his microphone: He had to answer another question from Sebetela who asked for a brief ?on the progress made in the establishment of the Botswana Police service Air Wing promised in the last budget.?
Minister Phandu Skelemani was still on his feet when the third question came: Sebetela asked the minister ?whether there have been meaningful staff establishment and other resource increases in key divisions of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and Security Intelligence Services (SIS) of the Botswana Police Service to cope with increasing and complex crime from 2003/4 to 2004/5, further, what increases in staff and other resources were for each of these divisions during that period.?
The Botswana Police Service has been hit by mass resignations. Close to 450 officers resigned from the police service between 2005 and 2006, mainly because of poor working conditions. ?We must admit there is a problem,? Commissioner of Police, Edwin Batshu, told The Sunday Standard in a recent interview. ?I have been urging government to attend to the conditions of service with particular reference to the ranks of Sergeant down to Constable.?
Batshu remembers opening the Gaborone CID office door to a police officer who could hardly keep his red puffy eyes open. The CID officer had been up for the past 24 hours and was still counting the hours behind the desk. ?We ask them to sacrifice, but they can only sacrifice so much,? said Batshu.
Minister Skelemani admitted that the ratio of police officers to the population was very low, and to make up the numbers the police service recruited temporary officers, and put them on a crush course before issuing them the grey and orange uniform and assigning them to the beat.
In cases where the female ?special constables? got pregnant, they were discharged from duty and their posts filled by another temporary officer. The practice came under heavy criticism this week during the debate on a motion by Mahalapye MP, Botlhogile Tshireletso, who slammed the practice as ?discriminatory.?
Tshireletso?s motion was unanimously supported by Parliament and even had the backing of minister Skelemani.