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Former Commander sues BDF and Gov’t

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General Galebotswe (rtd) is leading 200 other retired soldiers in a suit over ‘forced’ transference to BPOPF

LETLHOGILE MPUANG

Former Commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe (rtd) is leading 200 other retired soldiers in taking legal against President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government over their pensions.

The respondents in the suit are the Attorney General, the BDF and the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security.

Galebotswe was commander from August 2012 to September 2016. According to their filing affidavit, the retired soldiers are contesting the decision by the army to move the BDF pension funds for members who joined the military before establishment of the Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund (BPOPF), which only began operations in 2001. The former regard this not only as “illegal and unlawful” but also an injustice.

The court papers read: “In 2000, the Pensions Act was amended to provide for the establishment of the Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund (BPOPF). The amendment, inter alia, made it compulsory for all people who joined the public service effective 1st April 2001 to join and be members of the BPOPF. Those who were already in the public service were given a twenty four months period from the start of operations of BPOPF within which to opt to join the BPOPF and/or remain in the old defined pension scheme. The amendment of the Pensions Act did not bring the BDF within the ambit of the BPOPF.

“A decision was made in or about 2000 to have members of the BDF join and/or transfer to the BPOPF without amending the BDF Act Regulations that deal with pensions and gratuities for members of the BDF which was not only illegal and contrary to the provisions of the BDF Act and its Regulations and there was no legal basis for such a decision.”

The plaintiffs argue that this was done notwithstanding the fact that the issue of joining the BPOPF was initially presented as optional. “Infact, within the BDF the issue was presented as an instruction,” they assert. “In essence, the plaintiffs and other members of the BDF were not given a choice to join and or not to join the BPOPF, given the culture of the army, once an instruction was given, it had to be obeyed.”

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