Private security companies say they will challenge the Minister of Defence Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse to explain his role in a security company registered and owned by the Botswana Defence Force Retired Members Association (BDFRMA). The security companies allege a conflict of interest against Seretse. By virtue of being a former soldier, Ramadeluka is a member of BDFRMA and private security companies fall under the portfolio of his Ministry. Retired members of BDF, including former commanders and Ramadeluka himself are members of BDFRMA.
Security Association of Botswana Chairman, Gaolatlhe Mudongo expressed concern as Minister of Defence, Justice and Security and a member of BDFRM, Seretse is effectively conflicted. Seretse confirmed in an interview this week that he is a member of BDFRMA. Mudongo said they intend to investigate the issue and convene a meeting where they would challenge the Minister to explain his role in the company. “If the minister is indeed a member of BDFRMA, he should declare his interests; whether he will benefit from the company or not. He should also come and address us on this issue,” Mudongo said.
“If he is a member, how will we lodge a complaint with him should the need arise? As the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, he is the one chairing security sector meetings,” he said. Mudongo said at one stage they, questioned the Directorate of Intelligence Security (DIS)’s transparency as far as vetting for tenders is concerned. This was after allegations surfaced that security companies owned by former soldiers were favored over those owned by civilians. “But DIS has since assured us that strict vetting applied to every security company and we must all comply with the law. They have also since convinced us that they have improved as far as transparency is concerned,” he said.
Mudongo added that they do not have a problem with the newly formed BDFRMA security company as long as the playing field is level. For his part Seretse confirmed that “yes by virtue of being a retired Brigadier, I’m a member of BDFRM.” However, Seretse dismissed claims that he is likely to be conflicted saying private security companies are members of the Security Association of Botswana (SAB) and speak with a collective voice when lodging their grievance with his Ministry.
“First and foremost, I don’t hold any position within BDFRM. We hope that when the BDFRM’s security company is formed, it will be a member of Security Association of Botswana and therefore I don’t see how the company will have advantage over others because by virtue of being a member of Security Association of Botswana they will be represented at security sector meetings by the leadership of Security Association of Botswana,” he said. Seretse also added that “I’m not the one who is awarding or adjudicating over tenders. So how does the issue of conflict of interest come in or arise?” BDFRMA chairperson, Retired Major General Bakwena Oitsile confirmed that the company is expected to be up and running in three months. He said there is a provision that members of the association should be given priority first adding that individually members of the association must apply.
“We haven’t advertised for posts and I must hasten to add that we do not discriminate. We will advertise and employ Batswana,” he said. He dismissed claims that since they are former members of the BDF chances are that they would be favored. “Why should we be favored? I mean if we do not meet the criteria or tender specifications, we should be disqualified. It doesn’t work like that in Botswana, if we don’t perform why we should be given jobs?” he said.