When 2nd Lieutenants, Oratile Mothupi and Gabotepele Gaebolokwe-Molefhi, stood before the press at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport on Wednesday, it was apparent that the Botswana Defence Force’s endeavour to recruit female officers was far from a gimmick.
A scabby wound that looked painful ran from below Mothupi’s nose, cascading onto her chin and neck. It was evidence of the strenuous physical training the women went through at Tanzania’s Military Academy, that saw 6 officer cadets sent back home to Botswana to recuperate after sustaining serious injuries.
The two officers, who are also graduates from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, were chosen from the top four graduates to be spokespeople for the rest of the group of 22.
Both concurred that physical training was a demanding chore. Gaebolokwe-Molefhi, who holds a BSc Degree in Physiotherapy, says, “Physical training challenges the body to transform.”
Mothupi, who holds a Bachelors of Commerce Degree, said, “I have always admired the military’s discipline.”
Chimed in Gaebolokwe-Molefhi, “And we happened to be the right age at the right time to be among the first intake of female soldiers.”
The two women are optimistic that amongst the graduates from Tanzania is a future BDF commander. They encourage other women to consider enrolling into BDF.
“If we can do it, so can you,” they said in unison.
The Director of Protocol and Public Relations, Lt Colonel Mogorosi Baatweng, told The Sunday Standard that women coming into the army must, however, not expect special favours.
He reiterated BDF Commander, Lt General Tebogo Masire’s statement that, “All soldiers shall be treated equally and awarded solely on merit.”
When asked why the first female intake was of degree holders, Baatweng said, “BDF is run according to international standards; officer cadets must hold relevant qualifications.
“We have, since 1998, enrolled officer cadets who hold university degrees,” he said, adding that cadets’ enrolments in other ranks are open to Cambridge certificate holders.
“In future, women will also be enrolled into other ranks cadets,” he said.