All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader Tlali Khasu has urged the government to consider suspending the recruitment of new security staff and channel the funds towards “rigorously pursuing security reforms”.
Mr Khasu made the suggestion while referring to the M6,9 million budgeted for both vacant and new posts by the Ministry of Defence and National Security in the 2016/17 financial year.
The budget was passed on Tuesday in the National Assembly, but Mr Khasu argued the money could be spent on “integration and reconciliation” in the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
“We need to look at other means of sourcing funds and suspending filling vacant and new posts in the security sector would go a long way towards saving resources for the reforms,” said Mr Khasu yesterday in an interview with the Lesotho Times.
“The government should stop the recruitment of new personnel in the army and National Security Service (NSS). They should also stop filling vacant positions in the two organisations.
“If they stop these processes, they would make some savings on their budget and use the funds for other far more pressing issues or development projects. However, it would be more important if they were to use the funds for the reform process I have already alluded to.”
Mr Khasu said Basotho should never forget LDF members who recently fled the country fearing for their lives, and others in prison facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial. The reforms would ensure their reintegration into the LDF and compensation if necessary, he added.
“As we speak, there are soldiers in dire need of these reforms to take off as their hopes are pinned on this process. Some of these soldiers are in prison accused of mutiny, while others are in exile in South Africa. I know how painful it is to leave one’s own country and be abandoned when you return home.
“When those soldiers return home, we need to have a reintegration and reconciliation programme between them and the LDF. When we returned from exile as LLA (Lesotho Liberation Army) members, we were neglected. We never had any programme to heal old wounds between us and the army, so we should not make the same mistake with these soldiers,” said Mr Khasu.
According to Mr Khasu, the LDF needs as much resources as possible to cater not only for the reforms but also other issues which include “settlement packages” for the exiled soldiers and mutiny suspects.
The packages, he said, would cater for any losses they could have suffered.
“We know the army needs the budget it is requesting and we are not saying they should not get the funds. What I’m just saying is that the amount earmarked for new posts should be redirected towards this reform process as the Minister rightly said his focus would also be on the reforms this financial year,” said Mr Khasu.
He also emphasised there is “dire need” for the reform process to begin as soon as possible and be pursued “aggressively”.
Meanwhile, when presenting the Ministry of Defence and National Security’s budget estimates in parliament on Wednesday last week, Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi said the ministry would be implementing security reforms in both the LDF and National Security Service (NSS) from the 2016/2017 financial year.
Mr Mokhosi said the reforms would include a review of policies, laws and regulations of the LDF and the NSS. He also said the reform process includes the retraining of army and NSS personnel.
The minister said this when seeking his Ministry’s M589,7 million budget to be approved by the National Assembly.