Monday, August 8, 2022

Minister reprimands BDF Commander over Zim comments

Botswana’s army chief, Lt General Tebogo Masire, has been advised to desist from making political statements, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, has told parliament.
The minister also disclosed that his ministry was not going to investigate the issue.

Seretse was grilled by law makers on Friday after Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, noticed a question on ‘Political statements made by Botswana Defence Force leadership’.

Masire is reported to have applauded Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy, which the coalition partners in the Zimbabwean government are deeply divided over. To make matters worse, Masire is said to have praised the Marange diamond project and attacked Zimbabwe’s critics.

Saleshando wanted to know whether soldiers are allowed to take part in politics and whether action will be taken against the top army man.

“I contacted him to seek clarification on whatever he is said to have uttered…and he informed me that contrary to what has been written in the newspapers, he did not make any political statements,” said Seretse.

He explained that from what he was told, the BDF commander only commended Zimbabwe while being taken on a tour of Marange Mine.

“From what he told me, he only commended them and urged that resources should be used to develop the people,” the minister said.

However, the legislators appeared unconvinced as they fired questions at Seretse one after the other.
“This is not the first time that Lt Gen Masire has made political comments, are you going to investigate?” asked Kgatleng West MP Isaac Mabiletsa.

“How was the visit of the mines related to his job?” questioned Odirile Motlhale of South East.
“Were you able to find out from your Zimbabwean counterpart what really happened and what he (Masire) exactly said?” enquired MP Gibson Nshiwme.

“After hearing his explanation, which I was satisfied with, I cautioned him to be vigilant in future when addressing the press,” said Seretse.

The minister also indicated that while soldiers were not suppose to actively engage in politics, there was no written law which prohibited them to do so.

Seretse said this while responding to a follow up question by Saleshando’s on the seriousness of political utterances and whether there was any penalty for such conduct.

On the whole saga, Seretse has accused opposition MPs of making a mountain out of a molehill.

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