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.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).