Gaborone — Government recognises and applauds the level of expertise and readiness to serve displayed by Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.
Addressing BDF staff at Glen Valley Garrison in Gaborone on March 19, President Masisi described as impressive the level of professionalism displayed by the officers during his tour of the establishment.
"I have been received cordially, warmly, professionally and more than anything, I was humbled by the confidence, competence and readiness of the men and women who guided my tour. I commend you for a good display of your men, women and equipment. It gives me confidence that you are upright and alert, that you exhibit the agility and readiness to be deployed," said President Masisi.
He further said since the base was home to a Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby contingent, he would consider sending troops on peace keeping missions in the region.
He however assured his audience that he would not purposely put them in harm's way by deploying them in exceptionally volatile conflict zones.
This being part of his tour of BDF facilities countrywide in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Masisi said the purpose was to familiarise himself with all aspects of army operations as well as staff conditions of service.
"As your commander in chief I have decided to visit you in your areas of specialisation, to inspect and be briefed about your areas of work, abode and eating. I also saw areas where you enhance your fitness and your precision. I am pleased that the budget allocated to BDF is well spent and I commit to keeping the BDF as ready as any army," Dr Masisi pledged.
The President further told his audience that government was in the process of addressing welfare issues in the army.
"Over time, government has been worried about the vexing issues that you have had to face as BDF staff, and we came to the realisation that your conditions of service were not commensurate with the work that you do. In 2016 we engaged Tsa Badiri consultancy to look into the conditions of service of the BDF and parallel to that 21st Century consultants looked into the conditions of service for the public service," said Dr Masisi.
While acknowledging that resources were limited and needs prioritised, President Masisi said government considered employee welfare of paramount importance.
"We had to ensure alignment of the BDF pay structure so that an entry level soldier who would start with a salary akin to B3 salary scale would as of April 2019 start at B1 scale. This will have an effect of positively affecting the salaries of others, which is why I have heard that you have nicknamed this restructuring 'Touch Forward,' or 'Ntlole,' Dr Masisi said.
The president further informed his audience that a cabinet memorandum on a separate pension scheme for soldiers was under circulation.
Dr Masisi mentioned that the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security was working on the establishment of a veterans welfare office to cater for the welfare of retired soldiers and that government intended to develop a scheme of service unique to civilians employed in the BDF.
The 2017 review of the BDF Act, he said, had among other things assisted in improving the welfare of soldiers by having the retirement age revised upward.
"Upon retirement, benefits are calculated based on the length of service and as such the longer you stay in the military, the greater your retirement benefits will be. This measure also has the effect of assisting the BDF retaining the skill and talent that had been otherwise retiring early," Dr Masisi said.
Source : BOPA