- Retired soldiers say Masisi knows that dialogue was fruitless and they are worried that their issue is being politicised
Retired soldiers associated with the “A ReItshekeng” social club have responded to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recent statements made during the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Extraordinary Congress, asserting that his remarks about their plight were misleading and contained factual inaccuracies regarding military retirees’ pensions.
Will to resolve longstanding issue
During his address at the congress held on September 2, 2023, President Masisi highlighted his commitment and willingness to resolving the longstanding issue of military retirees’ pensions. He sought the endorsement of his party, the BDP, for this initiative. President Masisi further acknowledged the economic hardships faced by military retirees and the families of deceased members and expressed his desire to find a solution to their predicament.
In his speech, President Masisi criticized “A ReItshekeng” for allegedly collecting money from widows of military retirees to pay lawyers, further pledging to personally address the issue.
However, retired soldiers associated with “A ReItshekeng” and the Botswana Defence Force Retired Members Association (BDFRMA) have taken issue with the accuracy of President Masisi’s statements. They contend that the President had long been aware of the pension grievances of military retirees and had made promises during his 2019 election campaign that remained unfulfilled.
“We wish to put it on record that His Excellency has always been aware of the pension grievances of the military retirees and how they also affected those that are still serving in the BDF. This is the reason why in the build-up to the 2019 elections, the President while addressing the troops in BDF garrisons promised them that he wants to make their Net Replacement Ratio (NRR) 75 percent or better. It is unfortunate that this promise remains unfulfilled to date,” reads the retired soldiers statement delivered at a press conference this week.
The “A ReItshekeng” members and BDFRMA majority members said they needed to respond by correcting what they perceive as inaccuracies in the President’s statements, asserting that their decision to litigate against the government concerning their pensions was driven by frustration resulting from failed attempts to engage with relevant government authorities and the President himself.
“While it is not our character to respond to each and every opposing position against what we believe in and stand for; we feel that a lot of HIS Excellency’s remarks were full of inaccuracies which if left unattended pose the risk of misleading the public, causing confusion among our general membership and even put our social club and the Association in greater disrepute,” charged the military veterans.
The retired soldiers further said contrary to what the President said that few members at the helm of ARI took advantage of innocent litigants by pursuing court action after his open invitation on the 8th June 2019 to revisit the matter after the 2019 election campaign; the truth is that the “A ReItshekeng” concept began on the 13th May 2017 after the then Chairman of BDFRMA retired Major General Bakwena Oitsile addressed four retired officers in Gaborone who were part of a concerned group regarding their pensions migration to BPOPF.
“On the said date, the General was accompanied by three members of his National Executive Committee and informed the concerned members that the Association’s attempt to have the retirees matter addressed by the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security had failed and therefore the Association had decided to recuse itself lest they be accused by the military retirees that they were the ones stalling the discussions. Under the circumstances, they were at liberty to take any action which they deemed appropriate to pursue their pension grievances,” the statement said.