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Ex-Defence Minister Joins Army’s Pensions Case

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  • Ex-minister Seretse says he has joined a cause for justice
  • Soldiers switch to BPOPF disadvantaged them

TEFO PHEAGE

Former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, has joined over 500 retired members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) who hold that they were robbed by the switch from the BDF pension scheme to the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF).

Seretse, who left the BDF in 1998, has confirmed this to The Botswana Gazette, saying he had adopted a cautious approach at first because he was part of the decision-makers. “My position, even when I was still a serving member of the BDF, has always been that BDF pensions cannot be administered with those of civilians,” he said.

Asked about why he had decided to join the effort, Seretse answered:  “It is not out of a wish to gain anything but as a matter of principle. As I said, I have always held that the government was mishandling the issue. This is a position that resonates well with what I stood and still stand for and therefore my decision to join the cause and call which I believe is about justice and fairness.”

The case is led by former army Commander, General Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe and several brigadiers, colonels, majors and includes a host of their subordinates.

“Even when I was still with the BDF, I refused to migrate to Alexander Forbes but was forced into submission by the law giving us a certain period to have migrated,” he asserted. “But when I was minister and chairman of the Defence Council, I deferred financial matters to the Minister of Finance who was also a member of the Defence Council. I did so with all financial matters because they were the experts in that field and the government has always been of the view that the pensions law supersedes the BDF Act.”

Seretse said as things stand, soldiers – both serving and retired members of the BDF – are in for a huge disappointment over their pensions.

From its inception, the BDF had a distinct pension scheme that was separate and different from that of the rest of the civil service. There were also differences in the computation denominators used, for the civil service being 1/720 and 1/600 for the BDF.

Although soldiers and civil servants belong to the public service as distinct from the civil service, this was motivated by the inherent difference between the army and the civil service in that members of the BDF retire earlier than civil servants.

The retired soldiers say efforts to discuss rationalisation of the BDF pay structure with the Defence Council were futile. However, in the course of switching to BPOPF, the different denominators were not maintained, thus disadvantaging the former soldiers. For these reasons, they want the transfer declared illegal and nullified.

But it is likely to be a tough battle between the retired soldiers and the civilian government that has applied for the case to be dismissed.

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