BDF ordered to pay only 7 of the 51 former soldiers
The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has been ordered to pay at least seven of the fifty-one (51) ex-soldiers their contribution to the Military’s Sports and Recreation Fund. However 42 of the 51 applicants lost the case with costs.
Following a lengthy court debate in which the military men had filed a number of claims against the BDF, Justice Key Dingake of the Gaborone High Court could not find any convincing evidence for him to award the soldiers their claims against their former employer.
“The law is that costs follow the event. The applicants have all but failed in all their claims save for the seven with respect to the claim with respect to contribution to Sports and Recreation Fund. It is fair that in the result, it is ordered that all the applicants claims save for contribution to the Sports and Recreation Fund by the seven applicants identified in the judgment fails with costs,” Dingake made the ruling.
Dingake was making a ruling in a case in which fifty-one former BDF soldiers had taken the BDF to court over a number of claims including, contribution to the Sports and Recreation Fund, contribution to the Welfare Fund, Failure to pay Per Diem Allowances, Payment for those on Peacekeeping Missions and Funeral Scheme contributions.
On the issue of Sports and Recreation and Welfare Funds, the soldiers averred that they were through the BDF requested to make a monthly contribution towards the Funds. According to them, they were at the conclusion of their employment, entitled to be reimbursed their contribution plus ten percent interest.
However upon retirement they were told they had donated their Sports and Recreation Fund contributions. They further alleged that the BDF refused to reimburse them the contributions they made towards the Welfare Fund.
“On the evidence, I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the seven applicants (named) did contribute to the Sports and Recreation Fund and that there is no evidence that the aforesaid employees agreed that their contributions would be converted into donations,” Dingake made the ruling and added that the said soldiers should be reimbursed their contributions plus the ten percent interest.
But with respect to the Welfare Fund, the Judge said that the aspect of the claim had not been proven and therefore dismissed the claim.
The BDF further denied that they ever agreed to pay its soldiers who were deployed to Mozambique and Somalia for peacekeeping missions any per diem allowance. But the soldiers alleged that they were informed and it was agreed that they would be entitled to such an allowance on top of their monthly salaries as they were taken out of their duty stations.
The soldiers had presented before the court that it was their understanding that such allowances would be paid on their return from the mission, alternatively would be factored in their terminal benefits upon completion of service. However the package was not issued upon retirement.
According to the arguments of the retired soldiers, those of them that were deployed to peacekeeping missions were entitled, in addition to the daily amount of Thirty American Dollars ($30. 00), to $988 that was paid the BDF for onward payment to them.
Their contention was that it was agreed that they would be paid their dues upon completion of their mission, alternatively that they would be paid a portion of their dues upon return, with the rest payable upon retirement of separation from the BDF.
However the BDF denied that the $988 amount was due to the soldiers that were deployed but rather the amount was compensation for the Republic of Botswana to have sent its soldiers to peacekeeping missions.
“With respect to this particular claim, even if I were wrong that the claim has prescribed, the claim would still have to fail for lack of sufficient evidence in the face of denial that such is due by the respondents (BDF),” the judge further pointed out.
On the claim of the funeral scheme contributions, the soldiers averred that the BDF made monthly deductions from their salaries as contribution towards a funeral scheme. The amount they said were dependent on the rank of the individual. The complaint is that, since their retirement from the service, they had not been advised on the status of their contributions or be given an assurance that the contributed funds would be utilised for their funerals upon their death.
However the BDF further denied that all the fifty-one soldiers have made monthly contributions to the funeral scheme. The BDF added that the funeral scheme was a matter between those who have contributed to the scheme and the Botswana Life Insurance Limited. The BDF maintained that it was not even privy to the arrangement and therefore said it could not be sued over the matter.
The court was convinced that only eight out of the fifty-one applicants contributed to the funeral scheme.
“On the evidence, there is no evidence that the first respondent had undertaken to reimburse Funeral Scheme contributions at the end of the applicants’ service or employment or at any other time. On the papers, the applicants do not state how much money is due to them or how much they contributed a month. Consequently, the claim for reimbursement has not been fully made out. It seems to me that it may be prudent for the applicants to pursue this matter with the insurance company,” Justice Dingake further decided on the matter.
Meanwhile the soldiers are said to be planning to appeal the case. At the time of going to print they were allegedly planning to meet the State President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama who is the Commander in Chief of the armed Forced with intention to settle this matter out of court if possible.
Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.
There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024. Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”. Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”
Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.
However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party. This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.
There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.
As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.
Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said. Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.
Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.
This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned. “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.
The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.” Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”
He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.” Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.
He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court. “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.
He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.” He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.
“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”
He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo. “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.
Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.” He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.
The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.
The report was released a week ago. Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says. It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge. The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.
“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.” On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.
“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry. The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says. According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.
The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week. The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods. Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health
The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.
The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.
The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.” “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.