President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said government is in the process of coming up with the Military Veterans Act in an effort to address challenges be-devilling retired army officers.
Addressing a Botswana Defence Force Retired Members Association Annual General Meeting in Mahalapye, Masisi promised that the act will provide structures and principles for governance of retired BDF members in line with international best practice. Further, Masisi said the legislation will provide a clear definition of a veteran; what qualifies him or her to be one; and manage expectations by elaborately spelling out entitlements to military veterans. "The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi has informed me that a Cabinet Memorandum on the enactment of a Military Veterans Act has already been submitted for consideration by Cabinet during the month of June," he pointed out.
In order to address all veterans' affairs, Masisi said while enactment of the legislation is being progressed, it is worth noting that a Military Veterans Unit has already been established in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. "The envisaged legislation will therefore facilitate, empower and give authority to the Military Veterans Unit to address the needs of ex-military members,"Masisi revealed, adding that the law will facilitate retired army officers to transform from active service to a productive civilian life.
According to Masisi, some of the issues affecting ex-military personnel include payment of forfeited leave days, workers compensation and disability claims among others. "The decree will also address the current arrangement where the Commander is responsible for the welfare of both active and separated members. We have noticed that this arrangement falls short in addressing the needs of ex-military personnel as it is overstretches the Commander both in terms of time and resources availed for his core functions to active service men," he reiterated.
Masisi observed that the population of retired soldiers keeps on increasing and currently exceeds 10 000, adding that between 2013 and 2019, a total of 705 out of 888 Worker's Compensation claims have been fully settled at a total amount of P44,909,588 while 104 are still being processed. With respect to disability pension, Masisi said to date, 383 claims have so far been assessed and approved at an overall monthly cost of P583 305 which translates to P6, 999,665 per annum.
Masisi made a commitment that government is committed to establish systems and structures that will address challenges pertaining to the military veterans, saying it is critical that the sacrifice of the military veterans should be recognised and honoured by the nation. "Let me assure you that you are a national resource that should be tapped into for the development of this nation. The skills that you possess cannot be allowed to go to waste," he affirmed.
He promised that government will continue to engage the veterans through their association to determine how and where they can make meaningful contribution to the advancement of the nation. Masisi implored the retired soldiers to explore opportunities and come up with initiatives that can help build a brighter future for the country.