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A soldier’s threat

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A soldier's threat
CALLING FOR CALM: Major General Oitsile

BDF under fire as retired soldiers demand answers……and money

A group of retired soldiers are demanding the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) deal with their grievances of forfeited leave days as promised.

Some claim to be owed up to P100, 000 – and they want their money, or, at the very least, answers.

According to the former army men, because they are not members of the voluntary Retired Officers Association (ROA), they have been deliberately sidelined by the Botswana government and their immediate employer, the BDF.

In an exclusive interview with the Voice on condition of anonymity, five retired officers accused the government of being allusive and refusing to state when they’ll be paid their dues.

“This is a sensitive issue. Our parents and family members have no idea why retired army officers are wallowing in poverty. We have been patient for years because we know the code of conduct we should follow as former soldiers, but for how long?” demanded a former Major, tension etched on his ageing, agitated features.

The irate ex-soldier said his unhappy comrades – which he claimed could be as many as 10, 000 – could potentially pose a security threat if government and BDF continue to ignore their plight.

“We have retired soldiers who are losing it. They are almost out of control and our efforts to calm them down may no longer be enough if their demands are not met,” he warned grimly.

Another of the group, a retired 1st Lieutenant, says they have become a laughing stock in their villages.

Struggling to contain his emotion, the long-retired soldier cursed their former employer for failing to pay them the money that would vastly improve their lives.

“We have been unemployed for 20 years. What do we eat? Some of our colleagues have died and their beneficiaries don’t even know that they have money in government coffers!

“Remember, a small spark can burn an entire house. Government and BDF should come out into the open and tell the nation that a wrong was committed and will be rectified,” he continued angrily.

The former soldiers said they are worried that even though BDF has recently paid out monies owed to soldiers, they only focused on new cases and paid those who are still on duty.

“The logical thing would have been to deal with old cases. This is deliberate, they want us to die because we are old,” barked the bulky retired 1st Lieutenant.

“From our retirement fund, we were supposed to get 75% but all of us received 30%. What happened to 45% of our retirement package? This is the money we need to sustain ourselves!” he added desperately.

The Voice reached out to the ROA Chairman, Major General Bakwena Oitsile who said former soldiers are free to express their opinions.

However, Oitsile was quick to add, “At ROA we have a constitution and a code of conduct. We can’t hold people at ransom and say because we used to be soldiers we’ll do this if government does not meet our demands.”

The Major General said contrary to some reports the process to settle the debt is ongoing and is only hampered by lack of funds.

“Over 1, 000 soldiers who are still under the BDF employ were recently paid. At least 1, 600 retired soldiers are expected to be paid between now and the end of the year,” Oitsile told The Voice.

He said for those who have died before being refunded, their dependants have every right to claim the money on their behalf.

“BDF is handling this matter, and we are happy with their efforts and the progress so far,” he concluded.