By Tebo Kacho Dikole
The Botswana Defence Force is compelled to respond to a misleading article which appeared in the Sunday Standard newspaper of 28 July – 03 August 2019 titled “Homosexuality and the Military Debate-Part II” authored by retired Captain Richard Moleofe.
As much as the author is entitled to his own opinion, as he states, the main issue he wants to raise in his article is “how homosexual individuals will come to harm the security of our country and resistance of institutions such as the military when certain changes threaten their culture.” The article unfortunately has certain alarming and misleading aspersions that the author makes about the Botswana Defence Force senior officer corps and female officers, which are totally demeaning to say the least.
Without delving into the author’s opinion on homosexuality, a matter that is currently sub judice in Botswana and other issues that he raises, it is worth noting that when opinion peddles untruths, which if not addressed and rebutted publicly may end up being treated as the truth. It is against this background that the BDF is obligated to empirically respond.
The article makes unfounded claims pertaining to how women in the military are viewed by Botswana Defence Force Senior Officers. In the article the author states “It has now been more than ten years since the first female officer cadets were drafted into the Defence Force and yet they have not been given any desirable treatment other than to be viewed as objects of sexual gratification by their senior officers.”
It is unfortunate that the author who is a former officer in the BDF and is expected to fully understand what it means to be an officer in the military, makes such unsubstantiated claims that put into disrepute the good name of the BDF and its officer corps. The fact of the matter is that for the benefit of the public and the general readership, the BDF will continue to uphold its zero tolerance to fraternization. It is also worth pointing out that had the author done his homework he would have known that in cementing this position Sections 135 (Fraternisation) and 136 (Sexual Harassment) of the Botswana Defence Force Act, 2018 are designed to guard against his unsubstantiated claims.
The author further makes another unfounded claim, where he alleges “BDF senior officers have been adamantly opposed to the accelerated promotion of women for reasons best known to them.” For the record, the BDF is an institution that does not view the career paths of its uniformed personnel along gender lines. Members of the Botswana Defence Force are categorized as Commissioned Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and nothing else. Career progression of BDF female members cannot solely hinge on accelerated promotion but is amongst others based on performance, experience, eligibility and availability of vacancies for promotions.
Notwithstanding this it is worth mentioning that the very first female intake that the author is inferring to as being disenfranchised by being denied accelerated promotion was commissioned in 2008 in the Republic of Tanzania at the rank of Second Lieutenant. In the year 2010 they were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and in 2015 all of them where promoted to the rank of Captain an attainment never achieved by any BDF intake. This evident acceleration has seen the female officers being at the rank of Captain within seven years, a grade/level that some former BDF members have retired at after a continuous service of twenty (20) years or more.
The allegations posited by the author are therefore seriously demeaning in nature and need to be treated as falsehood since they have the potential to mislead the public, tarnish the image of the BDF and bring into disrepute the good name of the Defence Force. In his insinuations, retired Captain Moleofe does not provide cogent evidence to support his standpoint. It is therefore against this background that the BDF feels compelled to set the record straight lest Batswana misconstrue the allegations to be true. 3
Tebo Kacho Dikole (Colonel) is DIRECTOR, PROTOCOL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS at BOTSWANA DEFENCE FORCE HEADQUARTERS