Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi has said members of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) are not permitted to air their grievances or concerns outside the formal BDF structures.
The BDF members, the Minister said, cannot extend their work related grievances even to their local Member of Parliament (MP) as has been the norm for fellow public service workers.
Kgathi said while, just like public servants, members of the BDF are not precluded from attending formal meetings called by their MPs within their constituencies, it is not expected that they would use such meetings to raise matters they should be directing to the BDF leadership.
The Minister was responding to Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse who wanted to find out if there exists any law specifically precluding individual MPs with military barracks within their Constituencies from meeting and addressing BDF military personnel to hear their concerns.
The Minister said there was no law that specifically prohibits MPs from addressing the BDF members within their constituencies as long as such meetings are held outside the BDF installations. “This is in accordance with Section 18 and 19 of the BDF Act, No. 3 of 2018, read with Section 4 of the Protected Places and Areas Act (CAP 22:01) and Section 4 of the Public Order Act (CAP 22:02).” The Protected Places and Areas Act provides for the declaration of protected places and protected areas within Botswana, to regulate the entry of persons into such places and areas and to provide for matters incidental thereto or connected therewith. All military garrisons are listed.
The Public Order Act regulates and controls public meetings.
Kgathi said in terms of the Sections, MPs are restricted from addressing members of the BDF within BDF military installations.
Keorapetse also wanted to know how , subject to these provisions, MPs are expected to get to know the concerns of the BDF members. “Parliament has established an oversight committee known as the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense, Justice, Security and Governance Assurances which provides a forum for Members of Parliament to appreciate the concerns of members of the BDF,” Kgathi said.
The BDF has been notorious for arbitrary and capricious abuse of authority and position by high ranking members that has in many cases adversely affected the rights of their subordinates. A case in point is the ongoing fraternization case at the court martial where a Major General, motivated by a family feud, is alleged to have reversed an earlier decision to grant a junior officer permission to resign, so the junior could face the music for being in involved in a ‘prohibited intimate relationship … prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline contrary to section 65 of the BDF Act’.