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BDF female recruit dies during tough training

By: Khonani Ontebetse

The death of a female Botswana Defence Force (BDF) recruit during a tough military training exercise is expected to reignite debate within the military circles as to whether female recruits should be subjected to tough training exercises similar to those of their male counterparts.

Since the formal incorporation of women into the military, the army has made it clear that female recruits won’t be treated with kid gloves.

There are claims that the army high command was divided on issuing a memo or releasing information on the passing of the private recruit as she was under the care of the army.

Information reaching this publication indicates that the commander of BDF Lt. General Gaotlhaetse Galebotswe was against the death of the recruit being made public while General Support Service Director, Major General Gotsileene Morake insisted that the army should release information or issue a memo. Insiders said that should a recruit die during training period it is expected that the army issues a memo because a recruit is directly under the care of the army. However the situation is totally different after commissioning as the army would be expected to release that info if she died during an operation or in line of duty.

The Telegraph was unable to establish the cause of the death of the trainee but negligence on the part of the instructors is suspected. This is because the recruit had undergone training (endurance exercise) under the sweltering heat which saw Pandametenga (where training was conducted) recording a maximum of 42 degrees.

BDF spokesperson Major Bernard Ragalase said “Botswana Defence Force can confirm the loss of a female recruit private.” He added that “the cause of her death is still unknown.” Ragalase also said the army was not aware of any memo nor did they intend to release any.

It is unclear if BDF command will be making any enquiry to establish potential for discretable behaviour among the trainers.

Security sources said the death of the female recruit raises questions of training regime for female recruits and the competence of instructors to deal with the changes in force composition at Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) level.

Commenting on the matter, Ragalase said the questions raised are based on speculations. “Botswana Defence Force has qualified and competent instructors who follow training programmes based on best international military practices and standards.”

Another BDF spokesperson, Colonel Teko Dikole was recently quoted as saying that the

women privates would train alongside their male counterparts.

“There will be no separate training for females and males; they will instead train alongside each other,” he said, adding that it was an international practice, more so that the army had the capacity to do so.

The army officer said BDF would not make any distinction between men and women in the allocation of duties.

“We expect these women to perform similar duties as males,” he said, adding that however, the army would have separate accommodation in the barracks blocks for women to enhance and recognise privacy.