A BID by the Lesotho Liberation Army Veterans Association (LLAVETA) to hand over a petition to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Friday failed as the premier and other senior government officials were at a public gathering in Qacha’s Nek.
The war veterans marched from the racecourse in Maseru’s Thetsane suburb to King Moshoeshoe I’s statue in the city centre where they had planned to hand over the list of grievances to Dr Mosisili.
However, the premier was at a public gathering in Qacha’s Nek to introduce members of his seven-party coalition government to the people and articulate the alliance’s vision.
LLAVETA was formed by veterans of the Lesotho Liberation Army, an armed wing of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).
It was led by the late Ntsu Mokhehle after the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan’s Basotho National Party refused to accept defeat in the 1970 general elections.
Chief Jonathan suspended the constitution and went on to crack down on political dissent. The BCP militants, however, failed to remove Chief Jonathan until he was toppled by his own army in a coup in 1986.
According to LLAVETA chairperson Fusi Koetje, despite not meeting Dr Mosisili, they would still give the government seven working days to respond to the petition.
“Since the prime minister was not available to receive our petition, we will still expect government to respond favourably to the issues we raised which need to be resolved,” he said.
The nine-point petition demands that government recognise the role played by the combatants, war victims, sympathisers, funders and mobilisers in the struggle against Chief Jonathan’s government.
“It is fitting and proper that these groups be publicly displayed and honoured in order to effectively capture for posterity their selfless commitment in the creation and evolution of a better Lesotho. Measures must be put in place for compensation for various categories,” read the petition.
LLAVETA also demands the establishment of a Department of Veterans Affairs as the “main focal point where all administrative issues pertaining to veterans affairs will be handled”.
The former combatants also want an equal monthly pension to army officers backdated to 1989 when they returned to Lesotho from exile.
“A comparison with the military would be made, and a suitable standard rank will be chosen with which the pension will be determined. In the event that the veteran has passed away, the widow or widower will earn that pension,” reads the petition, adding that they were also entitled to financial settlements.
“The veterans will receive a lump sum of money as compensation. This also is calculated in the same manner as the pensions explained above. In a case where the veteran is deceased, the spouse will receive this mount.
“Should it be that the veteran and together with the spouse are no more, the beneficiary (parents or children only) from the family will accept the lump sum.”
The petition further argues that just like any former member of the security agencies, LLAVETA members also needed to have access to medical facilities free of charge.
“Makoanyane hospital could be the best option for members residing around Maseru.”
Added to that, the veterans demand funding for income-generating projects and a funeral fund for them and their dependents.
The petition also calls on government to repatriate the remains of veterans buried in foreign countries.
“There are roughly 200 combatants who died during the struggle, and their bodies are still in Tanzania, some in Botswana and South Africa.
“These bodies need to be repatriated. There is also a considerable number of bodies that are in Lesotho, but their exact location could not be identified, hence an intervention of expertise will be required (Forensic investigations),”it says.
Repeated attempts to get a comment from the premier’s spokesperson, Motumi Ralejoe, were fruitless as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
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