LLA veterans to contest polls

MASERU — Members of the Lesotho Liberation Army Veterans Association (LLA-VETA) say they will stand in this year’s parliamentary election under the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) banner.

The Lesotho Liberation Army was an armed wing of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) that was formed in exile after the late Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan refused to step down after losing the 1970 general election.

Jonathan suspended the constitution and went on to crack down on political dissension.

The war veterans’ association’s chairperson, Fusi Koetje, last Tuesday told a press conference that the association had decided to throw its weight behind the LPC led by Kelebone Maope.

Koetje said they had chosen the LPC because it had proven to be more welcoming than the other congress parties.

He said they approached the BCP with a proposal to stand under its banner but the party rejected their overtures.

“This was because the BCP was instrumental in forming the freedom fighters’ organisation,” Koetje said.

“We then approached the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which accepted us but promised to formalise things only to dillydally until we realised that we have no space in their midst.”

Koetje added that they made several follow-ups with the LCD leadership but nothing materialised.

“Since our conference had resolved that we could go to any congress party not singling a party by name, we approached the LPC which welcomed us with wide arms,” he said.

All congress parties broke away from the BCP that fled into exile in the 1970s following Jonathan’s brutal crackdown.

BCP members only returned home in 1993. The party swept all constituencies in the first post-military regime elections held in 1993. It however began disintegrating into several bickering rival parties soon after.

“We have members in all congress parties but we have resolved to be represented in parliament as an organisation because no congress party seemed ready to take our case to that house,” Koetje said.

Speaking at the same conference, the LLA-VETA general secretary, Khotso Morojele, said they wanted to be represented in parliament so that they can discuss the plight of former freedom fighters and their families at government level.

Morojele said many of their members are old, sick and unemployed and they feel that a government led by a congress party could help them.

LPC deputy leader, Molahlehi Letlotlo, said the party would select some constituencies in which members of the LLA-VETA will stand.

Letlotlo said the party feels that it is its responsibility to do something for the freedom fighters but it is incapacitated because it is not a government.

“If we were a government we would do something for these people, as other countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa are doing something to improve the welfare of their freedom fighters,”
Letlotlo said.

The LPC has kept strong ties with the LLA-VETA and often invite its members to celebrate heroes’ day every year.

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