MASERU — A local civil society group is insisting on monitoring the Lesotho Defence Forces recruitment exercise to ensure that HIV positive people are given a fair chance of joining the army.
But the LDF which is set to recruit 300 youths this year has rejected Development for Peace Education (DPE)’s demand to remove the veil of secrecy surrounding the recruitment, citing security reasons.
DPE is an organisation that seeks to empower the needy in society.
DPE coordinator Sofonea Shale told the Sunday Express on Friday that the group would find ways of breaking a barrier imposed by LDF commander Lieutenant General Thuso Motanyane, who last year rejected DPE’s advances on security grounds.
But DPE which has been fighting with the LDF over suspicions that the army recruitment policy marginalised HIV positive job applicants said it would continue the war.
“The commander is just hiding behind the phrase ‘security compromise’ when the public wants to ensure that there is no discrimination in the recruitment process,” Shale said.
“We will still monitor it even if he refuses. We do not need his authority to monitor the implementation of the LDF recruitment policy,” he said.
Shale could not however say how exactly the group planned to monitor the army recruitment.
Lieutenant Mathanzima Taneso, the LDF spokesperson told the Sunday Express yesterday that applicants had already gone through interviews for possible recruitment on a yet to be announced date.
Applicants will not undergo mandatory HIV testing after the LDF changed its policy following intervention by DPE in January last year. They will still have to undergo a medical test though.
DPE insists it wants to monitor the recruitment nonetheless to ensure that the LDF does not use the medical tests to identify and discriminate against HIV positive people despite the policy changes.
“The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that the good intentions which informed the policy changes are adhered to and not lost out in the process of implementation,” said Shale.
“The identified achievements and shortfalls in the policy adherence shall be primarily used to engage the LDF for improvements,” he said.
The DPE first wrote to Lieutenant General Motanyane in January last year expressing concern that subjecting job applicants to mandatory pre-recruitment HIV testing was a human rights abuse.
The army said it has since stopped the mandatory tests but DPE is insisting on keeping an eye on the policy implementation.
The LDF’s response to DPE’s request was a sharp rebuff.
“The office of the Commander Lesotho Defence Force hereby wishes to bring to the attention of your good office that your request to monitor the implementation of LDF recruitment policy is hereby turned down,” reads the LDF response.
“This decision proffered strongly takes into consideration issues pertaining to the possible compromise of security on the part of the LDF,” the army added.
The DPE in a document on the LDF recruitment policy before the changes noted that applicants found to be HIV positive after the mandatory testing lost the opportunity of joining the army.
“To the extent that the policy makes HIV and Aids test mandatory and determinant to the qualification or otherwise of the applicant, it is wholly unacceptable and thoroughly denounced as improper and inappropriate,” the organisation noted.