Monday, September 21, 2020

Soldiers take BDF to court over benefits

Four soldiers based at Area S and Donga camps in Francistown have taken the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to court demanding de-linking policy salary benefits.

The applicants, Olebeng Sokwane and three others who all hold qualifications of Diploma in Accounting and Business Studies (DABS) claim that the BDF is unfairly refusing to pay them according to their qualifications as per the military de-linking policy. The case is before Francistown High Court Judge Tshegofatso Mogomotsi The BDF is cited as the first respondent while the Attorney General is the second respondent.


According to their court papers in 2012, the BDF introduced a de-linking policy in which holders of DABS qualification were to be upgraded from the B Salary Scale to C and D salary scales. They claim that upon the introduction of the de-linking policy, their career progression paths were charted from the respective times they obtained the DABS qualification. 

In January 2013 the BDF discontinued the de-linking policy reckoned from the effective date of the policy, and in line with respective dates of acquisition of their DABS qualifications.

They maintain that in doing so, the BDF did not notify them nor did it invite representation from them prior to such discontinuance. The applicants claim that without giving any reasons, the BDF placed all of them on C3 salary scale in October 2018 which was against the de-linking policy. They claim that they are entitled to payment of arrear salary and benefits under the de-linking policy on the basis of parity and uniformity.


The applicants are also unhappy that they have colleagues in the BDF holding the same DABS qualification who were upgraded and are paid salaries in terms of the delinking policy. The applicants also state in their papers that since the discontinuance of this policy there have been several court cases by others like them to compel the BDF to restore it. They claim that the matters that went before court were adjudged against the BDF in favour of restoration of the policy. The applicants feel that the conduct of the BDF is unfair as it recently paid other officers who had similar circumstances. They are accusing the BDF of being selective in treating the issue.


The applicants further assert that in terms of conditions of service governing their employment, they are entitled to progress from one scale to the next every two years subject to satisfactory performance and feel that they have all performed as expected since January 2013.


Their prayer is for the court to order the BDF to pay them salary scales under the delinking policy of 2012. They are also pleading with the court to direct the respondent (BDF) to calculate and cause to be paid to the applicants’ arrear salaries and benefits at the interest rate of 10 percent per annum reckoned from the date each arrear salary became due to the date of full payment. They are also demanding BDF to pay for costs of the application on the scale of attorney and client.


In the answering affidavit, Colonel Jenamiso Mountain who is the Deputy Director of Human Resources at BDF denied that the de-linking process was withdrawn without due consultation with the applicants. He averred that all members of the BDF were invited to consultative meetings held in all the military camps around the country where they were informed about the qualifications required for de-linking and that consideration was being made to discontinue the delinking pay for those members who did not hold requisite qualifications.


“They were informed that this approach came as advice from Accountant General after it was realized that the wage bill of the BDF had gone beyond the budget. The applicants were not on any type of leave at the time, nor were they on any trip; they were therefore accounted for as having attended the meeting. The applicants are put to strict proof of their alleged absence from the meeting, “reads part of the answering affidavit.


He further asserted in the affidavit that the de-linking was discontinued in 2012 on members who did not qualify for such including the applicants. Mountain said their exclusion was based on the Defense Council resolution on delinking as read with Presidential Directive CAB 15(B) of 2011 on delinking which only stated that Accounting Technicians Holding the qualification of AAT were eligible for delinking.

 
Among other important issues, he said after the implementation of the de-linking policy, the application progression was two folds; military and professional progression.

He explained that the professional progression was at the discretion of the BDF Commander which decision he exercises fairly regarding all matters including satisfactory performance at work, availability of vacancies as well as the disciplinary record of applicants. He said there is no automatic progression in the public service in respect of the applicants’ cadre and as such it was not clear why they demand automatic progression as in their notice of motion.


Mountain rubbished off discrimination by the BDF as alleged by the applicants. He concluded in the answering affidavit that the applicants are not entitled to the reliefs sought and their application lacks merit and stands to be dismissed
The applicants are represented by Wada Nfila and T. H Monthe represents the respondents. The case is yet to go for status hearing.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper