- General Fisher throws his weight behind suit by 500 former soldiers
- Says it is a matter of principle for him
- Khama, Kgosi and Masire likely to join
TEFO PHEAGE & LETLHOGILE MPUANG
Lieutenant General Louis Matshwenyego Fisher (rtd) who was Commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) from 1998 to 2006 has joined the case in which former soldiers are challenging the government’s “unlawful” migration of the their pension benefits and pension scheme to Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund (BPOPF). Two more retired generals, Ian Khama and Tebogo Masire, are also reportedly ready to join them.It is not yet known how this suit will affect the country but military experts say it has the potential to have far-reaching consequences on both the military and political establishments
Khama was appointed Commander of the BDF 1989, retiring from the position in 1998. Masire took over from Fisher in 2006 and passed the command to Gaolathe Galebotswe in 2012.“The genesis of the problem was during our time but we have arrived at a historical juncture where a solution is being sought through a third party,” he said. “The current crop is seeking a solution and one is trying to be part of the solution as the courts will rule and put the matter to a final rest. The dilemma for the generals is being accused of having put our tails between our legs and fled the scene.”According to Fisher’s successor, Lieu-tenant General Tebogo Masire, the matter should have been addressed through the Real Retired BDF Members Association. “The matter was discussed at the last AGM but some felt that it was taking too long to be resolved, hence it has ended up in court,” Masire said.
For his part, former president Ian Khama said,“It is difficult for me to comment as I do not know all the issues they are taking to court,” he added. “I only have a general idea. I have not been approached to assist them.” Major General Pius Mokgware has revealed that they currently have more than 1500 retired BDF members, among them generals and brigadiers as parties to the legal proceedings. He said they have not closed the door to any former BDF member who may want to join them, but added that they have cautioned everyone against politicising the issue. It is understood that Isaac Kgosi, who is currently facing serious charges, is also likely to join the suit soon. Brigadier Ramadeluka Seretse, who is a former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, has joined the suit. Kgosi could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
The High Court recently rejected a bid by the state to throw the case out on technicalities that the over 500 retired soldiers did not deliver their declaration within the prescribed 14-day period. However, Justice Michael Leburu excoriated the state. “This matter is of great national importance in that it directly hits at the doorstep and livelihood of retired members of the BDF and some of the current members,” he said.“At the epicenter of the dispute is alleged unlawful migration of their pension scheme and benefits from the BDF to BPOPF, which has resulted in diminution of their pension benefits. The quantum of pension payable to a pensioner is a matter of livelihood and dignity. “Pensioners should not retire into poverty. The plaintiffs are former members and some current members of the BDF who stood sentinel over the sovereignty of Botswana for many years. Not only that, even in the arena of international diplomacy and peacekeeping, the BDF has been assembled, paraded and deployed with aplomb. “This court takes judicial notice of one such deployment in Somalia in 1992/3 under the aegis of the United Nations on a mission aptly styled ‘Operation Restore Hope.’ The case is thus of national importance.”