Defence, Justice and Security Minister Shaw Kgathi says there are no retired Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers who are still owed their retirement pension packages as alleged by some Members of Parliament claim.
Kgathi told parliament this week that his ministry has no debts pertaining to retired army officers. Kgathi further refuted claims that BDF members retire into poverty due to inadequate pension paid to them. He said in 2001 the government moved from a Defined Benefit Scheme to the Defined Contribution Scheme as to improve pension packages.
Kgathi was in particular responding to Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse who had made numerous deliberations on issues affecting army officers and their welfare. He had asked the minister if he was aware that army personnel retire into poverty because of inadequate pension paid to them.
Keorapetse said there were still cases of soldiers not being paid their pension and wanted to know when the minister will address the issue. He added that the soldiers earn little and there is no satisfaction that the recent amendments to the Act will improve the situation. “Retired army officers’ welfare is compromised, their pension is not adequate to sustain them and there is also lack of follow up programmes on retired soldiers to asses and track their living after retirement,” charged Keorapetse.
However, Kgathi reiterated that soldiers’ are well provided for and their packages after retirement are enough to sustain them. He also pointed out that he engaged Actuarial Consultancy Services to review the BDF Pension benefits. He further said “The Consultants have recommended a ‘Defined Contribution Scheme’ with targeted benefits from privates up to Warrant Officer.”
He continued “I don’t know which BDF retired officers have retired into poverty. I only know that some politicians are the ones who find themselves in poverty upon retirement and in this house we have retired soldiers such as Pius Mokgware, Michael Molefhe and Kitso Mokaila who have not retired into poverty and are living just as other retired officers.”
Kgathi also pointed out that the recent amended Botswana Defence Force Act led to the retirement ages in the BDF being raised, save for the rank of Private and Lance Corporal which was retained at age forty five (45) and forty seven (47) years respectively. He said the raising of the retirement ages was done in consideration of the fact that the increase of retirement ages will consequentially lead to a longer period of defined contributions with a net effect of ten to fifteen percent (10-15%) increase in the Net Replacement Ratio (NPR).
For his part, former BDF officer and Gabane–Mmankgodi lawmaker, Pius Mokgware said indeed there were soldiers who have retired and have not yet been paid their pension. He cautioned Kgathi against denying such serious matters as this one, advising that he should rather work on ensuring that the said retired officers get their pension pay-out.
Another legislator, Dr Phenyo Butale said the minister was taking lightly the welfare of army officers. “I am surprised that you say you are not aware that soldiers are owed pensions and you are also denying that there is a report showing the list of unpaid retired soldiers.” Butale has also accused Kgathi of trying to sugar coat his ministry when addressing issues affecting the army officers welfare and said he (Kgathi) has once told parliament that the new BDF structure relating to the soldiers welfare has been given to consultants for reviewing although he now denies that.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.