Army boss talks tough

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  • asks soldiers not to take instructions from outsiders

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

ARMY Commander Lieutenant-General Mojalefa Letsoela has told his soldiers to be wary of divisive elements that he claims are trying to infiltrate and destabilise the force.

The army has been at the centre of Lesotho’s instability over the years with its critics accusing it of meddling in politics at the expense of its core mandate of protecting the country.

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander did not identify the elements he claimed are trying to infiltrate and destabilise the force but it is common cause that he has been at loggerheads with his line minister Tefo Mapesela.

Lt Gen Letsoela vowed never to allow “outsiders” to interfere with the army.

Mr Mapesela last week accused Lt Gen Letsoela of “revolting’ against civilian authority after the army boss withdrew soldiers from their ministerial guard duties to attend a parade at which he sought to dispel what he described as misinformation about a government plan to harmonise salaries of staffers in all security clusters including the army.

The garrulous defence minister launched a broadside at the army boss, accusing him of not only failing to respect civilian authority over the army but of taking major decisions without consultations.

And while addressing an event hosted by the LDF’s female officers to commemorate women’s month at Ratjomose Barracks, Maseru, this week, Lt-Gen Letsoela said “the enemy is trying all means to infiltrate the army”. Without identifying the enemy, he said he was standing guard watching all that enemy’s machinations.

“The enemy is trying all means to infiltrate the army now on my watch,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said. “I am standing guard watching because I am not an over reactive person,” he added, vowing nonetheless to never let the “enemy” have his way over the LDF.

He strongly urged his soldiers not to be swayed by individuals he claimed were bent on misdirecting the army.

“We have vowed to make sacrifices for His Majesty the King, his lawful government and for the constitution. That is what the LDF will stand for. Let us not be confused by those who have the ability to speak whatever they want,” he said, in what appeared to be an obvious reference to Mr Mapesela.

He urged his officers never to take anything for granted because they would be blamed if the country was destabilised on their watch.

Soldiers should only take instructions from their commanders, he said.

“The LDF is by law run by its command and you are the soldiers under the command…You should only listen to your command…Beware of individuals who are selling you stories that are too good to be true…They do have ulterior motives.

“I have assigned you to your duties and you should stick to those. I will handle the rest of your challenges. All you need to do is listen to the command, not anyone else.”

Lt-Gen Letsoela said he was always gravely concerned whenever there were events that destabilised the country’s peace. He said it was unfortunate that whenever there was instability, the LDF usually bore the brunt, and was accused of orchestrating strife.

He emphasised he would not allow outsiders to run the LDF on his watch.

Lt-Gen Letsoela expressed gratitude to the female officers who honoured his call and gathered at the parade to belatedly commemorate women’s month saying this was an indication that they honoured his command.

“Under my command, I ordered that this parade be held… This shows that I have real men and women who are always available to execute their mandate which is to do all they can to protect the independence, integrity and the interests of Basotho and to safeguard their culture and natural resources,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

He assured the female soldiers he would ensure that they were given the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

“The LDF has a special place for you where you are not discriminated against…,” he said.  He thanked the female soldiers for mobilising donations to give to the needy as part of the women’s month commemorations.

“Work together with you male colleagues to take my orders. We are not an arrogant command that keeps all benefits to itself leaving the rest of you out. So, I appeal to you to let me handle all other issues that are above your paygrade and are related to policy. Just give me the opportunity to work on such issues with the hope that they will be sorted out,” he said.

Brigadier ‘Matumelo Ramoqopo, who spoke on behalf of the women said they intend to continue donating to vulnerable children.

Brig Ramoqopo said the donations would also help army officers who look after the vulnerable children of their deceased colleagues.

“The gifts are meant to give a break to those who are taking care of vulnerable children. We have members of the LDF whose children have special needs and those are usually very costly. We also have LDF members and civilians who have undertaken to look after the children of late soldiers,” Brig Ramoqopo said.

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