Minister says contributions are not yet closed
The controversial deductions from the country’s disciplined forces, the Botswana Defence Force, the Botswana Police Service and the Prisons and Rehabilitation Service have exceeded the P20 million mark, The Botswana Gazette has established.
The money, which is for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, will be handed over on Thursday this week.The amount of P20 million is in accordance with initial projections, which indicate that almost all members of the three entities have heeded the call from their superiors to make contributions to the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, has told The Gazette in an interview that he was not yet in a position to share details of the extent of the contributions. However, Minister Mmusi took the opportunity of the interview to express his gratitude to those who have contributed and noted that the contributions were not closed.
News of the success of the ‘appeal’ follows widespread criticism of soliciting contributions from members of disciplined forces where ‘requests’ made by senior officers are generally considered as good as orders. Members of the three forces have expressed fears that resistance could be punished by several means, including stalled promotions. The contributions are in proportion to rank and salary scale.
The Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando, wrote a letter to President Mokgweetsi Masisi calling on him to intervene and stop the contributions that are deducted from salaries at source. “Members of the Police Service as well at the Botswana Defence Force, have received communication from their superiors urging them to contribute their earnings or savings to the COVID-19 Fund,” Saleshando wrote. “Fixed amounts have been set for each rank.”
“Though the communication suggests that the contributions are voluntary, we all know that a request from he highest authority, in the culture of disciplined forces, is a command. Our men and women in uniform are part of the frontline and have had to carry a heavier workload when we all took the backseat and worked from home. It is unfair to subject them to additional financial strain. I therefore urge you to re- verse the call for donations by the head of the police and army. Let those in the disciplined forces who wish to contribute follow the same procedure set for every Motswana. They can deposit directly to the advertised ac- counts and not through their superiors.”
The University of Botswana’s policy analyst and social worker, Professor Keitseope Nthomang, has likened the contributions to double taxation. The government, Nthomang said, must assume full responsibility for fighting the disease without abusing the vulnerabilities of some communities or individuals to press them for contributions.
“You don’t force patriotism and I cannot think of any other way these communities have to show their patriotism than what they are doing currently as front- liners in the fight against this pandemic,” he added.