Caswell Tlali & Nat Molomo
MASERU — The Lesotho Liberation Army Veterans Association has urged the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to help search for the remains of its members who died in exile.
The association also says Mosisili should take the lead in efforts to rebury the remains of those who were buried outside the country during the struggle against repression between 1970 and 1993.
The Lesotho Liberation Army was the armed wing of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).
It was led by the late Ntsu Mokhehle after Leabua Jonathan’s Basotho National Party refused to accept defeat in the 1970 general elections.
Mokhehle formed the army after efforts to remove Jonathan’s government through constitutional means failed.
At that time Jonathan’s regime was busy persecuting members of the BCP at home and used secret agents to kill those in exile.
The BCP militants however failed to remove Jonathan until he was toppled by his own army in a coup in 1986.
But on coming home in 1993 most of the war veterans sank into oblivion after the BCP government refused to absorb them into the Lesotho National army.
Many like Thebe Motebang, the former BCP army commander who was buried last week, have died in abject poverty.
Addressing about 150 members yesterday the veterans’ association committee member, Lebohang Sekotlo, said the government should take it as its responsibility to rebury “the heroes who fell on the battle front”.
“We understand fully that our political party which we fought for, the BCP, has been torn in many pieces and other parties like the ruling LCD were formed out of it but we feel that it is still the responsibility of the incumbent government to bring the heroes back for proper burial at home,” Sekotlo said.
“LCD members are to my understanding still members of the great congress movement and therefore the LCD government should not turn a blind eye to the plight of people who sacrificed to bring back democracy to Lesotho.”
The association also appealed to the government to help some of the veterans start income generating projects.
The association’s chairperson, Fusi Koetje, said they were pushing for the reconciliation of the congress parties in an effort to create a platform for members from which they can address their concerns to the “people who supported them during the struggle”.
Koetje said reconciliation would revive the congress movement which is needed for the betterment of the living standards of the association’s members, orphans and widows of men who died in exile.
“The time has come for members of the congress movement to meet again,” Koetje said.
The former BCP leader, Ntsukunyane Mphanya, who is leading the Mahatammoho a Kopano (Congress Members for Reconciliation) said he was however sceptical about the LCD’s readiness for reconciliation.
He said the LCD government does not want anybody to breathe a word about the idea of congress reconciliation “if I Mphanya is involved in that reconciliation move”.
“The LCD put it bluntly that it would not be part of the reconciliation process if I am present in it,” Mphanya said.
The LCD youth league leader Mosala Mojakisane however told the meeting he supports the reconciliation overtures and he believed the LCD is fully behind the call.
Mojakisane said he personally feels sad when he sees other countries which had people who died in exile taking efforts to locate their remains and reburying them at home.
“Perhaps this reconciliation you are talking about will make this thing happen,” Mojakisane said.
Mojakisane said he was concerned that youths in various formations of the congress movement do not know “the idea behind this great movement and we have ended up shifted from its philosophy.”
He said the time had come for members of the association and other congress stalwarts to teach the youth about congress politics.
“Sometimes I feel like crying. I encourage the reconciliation of the Lesotho congress parties. It will breathe life back into the congress movement,” he said.