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Govt looks into military veterans welfare

13 Apr 2023

Government is looking into improving military veterans’ welfare as well as their benefits.

Presenting the Military Veterans Bill in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister of Defence and Security, Mr Kagiso Mmusi said government was also looking into relieving the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) commander from determining and administering the military veterans benefits as well as closing the gap by establishing a structure with a legal standing that was intended to specifically render assistance to veterans.

“Transferring such responsibilities from the BDF commander and by extension the Defence Council will enable such authorities to focus their time, effort and resources on the primary mandate of leading active members of the BDF and providing direction of the defence force,” Mr Mmusi explained.

He added that the amendment allowed for creating a structure that would attend to the welfare of current members at the end of their service to the nation.

Such a structure, he said, would be mandated to disbursement of benefits, developing strategies and programmes to facilitate induction of former soldiers into civilian life, socio-economic inclusion, counselling as well as treatment for those suffering mental disorders and related conditions.

Again, he said amending the Act would facilitate honouring and memorising of both surviving and deceased military veterans.

He added that benefits relating to military veterans would be provided for and would be administered through the ministry and an appeals board would be established to hear appeals on decisions made by the ministry as well as provide for appeals from the Defence Council.

“When the BDF was established in 1977, there was no formal structure to cater for post military service personnel varied needs ranging from general administration of pension, welfare benefits and matters related there to,” he said.

Effectively, Mr Mmusi said there were no systems or programmes established to ensure smooth and seamless transition of military personnel from active military service to civilian life.

“The military service is distinct from civil service. As such, the distinction in construction operations and conditions of service of military was addressed by separate legislation from the rest of the Public Service Act, being the BDF Act.

He said the work environment exposed the military to high risks of physical harm, which might be detected during or post service.

“Unlike other public servants, military personnel start reaching compulsory retirement ages as early as 45, a large number of whom face challenges such as military service related physical and mental disabilities and low employability,” he said.

Therefore, he said it was rationale to provide for conditions of service during post service.

He added that since the formation of BDF, close to 10 000 officers and men who had separated and 75 per cent were still alive.

As such, he said the Bill was intended to cater for post service military life as well as the general administration of pension, welfare and other benefits of military veterans.

Additionally, he said the Bill would cater for miscellaneous matters such as savings and regulations.

“It sets out the benefits relating to a military veteran such as dedicated counselling and treatment for mental disorder or post-traumatic stress disorders, facilitation of access to education, training and skills development as well as access to socio-economic empowerment schemes,” he added.

Further, he said the Bill also set out benefits of military veterans in relation to medical care and disablement benefits and also made provision for the award of disability pension for disabilities caused or aggravated by military service without misconduct or serious negligence on a military veteran’s part.

He said the Bill would also give authority to, at any time of request, a military veteran to present themselves for medical examination or treatment at the expense of government to determine their disablement benefits.

“Where a veteran fails to avail himself, they shall seize to benefit from the disability pension until such a time when they show up or avail themselves and accordingly get assessed. 

A clause in the Bill also makes it mandatory for the ministry to, at its own expense, transport a military veteran who was required by the ministry to be medically examined,” he said. ENDS 

Source : BOPA

Author : Moshe Galeragwe

Location : Gaborone


Date : 13 Apr 2023