New commander preference for hairy soldiers causes controversy
The new Botswana Defence Force Commander, Lt General Gaolathe Galebotswe has decided to replace the clean shaven look among the BDF soldiers with the new hairy look.
Concerned sources from the BDF barracks who asked not to be named told The Voice that the commander’s decision to change the look associated with soldiers for the past four decades has been communicated in his address in all the BDF camps recently.
The new hair rule has however stirred debate and controversy as many concerned soldiers and their wives have expressed disapproval citing its lack of practicality, especially for those soldiers out on special missions in the bush.
A frustrated wife who phoned The Voice office to vent her frustrations over how the new rule was making her husband look unkempt said: “My husband came from a trip with long hair and when I asked what was behind the new hairstyle he told me that they have been ordered not to cut their hair.”
Yet another wife who also called in to express similar sentiments said : “My husband is not used to keeping hair and nowadays he always looks un groomed and dirty with dust sticking to his hair.”
The new hair rule has apparently irked balding army officers more than anybody else as they grapple with the logic behind being forced to keep a small portion of hair around a bald patch.
Expressing his anger at the new rule, a balding officer who did not want his name mentioned said that perhaps the new commander wanted to make his presence felt by making such drastic changes.
“He did not only shock us with the no hair cuts rule but he has also gone as far as phasing out the Stick of Honour, which officers from the rank of 2nd Lieutenant Rank usually carry around.”
The concerned officer went on to say that: “Some of us are always out on special missions tracking poachers and patrolling borders and we do not get a chance to bath properly during these times, That is why we thought the commander will encourage us to cut our hair and not to keep it.”
Dismissing a pending assignment for BDF officers to go on a hair length bench marking trip to neighbouring countries as a joke another angry soldier said: “ What a waste of money that trip is going to be. How can you benchmark on haircuts, it is a total waste of time and resources,”
Meanwhile BDF’s Public Relations Officer Major Fana Maswabi confirmed that indeed there have been discussions around soldiers hair length.
“The Commander has emphasized on the need for grooming standards in the military to include the general appearance of all uniformed members.” Maswabi said that the commander is to direct a team to look into conditions of service and amongst other things address discrepancies in the form of grooming standards to ensure uniformity.
“Grooming standards will be formulated by the Assistant Chief of Staff Personnel with a view to have a neat and well groomed appearance by all members of the defence force,” Maswabi said.
The stick of honour, Maswabi explained, will not be phased out completely but rather reviewed to be carried by certain higher ranks only. Galebotswe is the army’s fifth commander after Tebogo Masire who retired early this year.
Other BDF commanders who preferred leading an army of clean shaven soldiers were Mompati Merafhe, Ian Khama, and Matshwenyego Fischer.