Some members of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) who were deployed in Mozambique are complaining that they have not been paid their allowances by the government.
Lesotho sent 125 soldiers to Mozambique in August last year as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force to fight the Islamic State insurgents terrorizing the country’s northern region of Cabo Delgado.
Their tour of duty was initially expected to end in January this year but was extended to April by SADC leaders who had met in Lilongwe, Malawi, to review the Mozambique situation.
They arrived back in the country on May 30, there were only 124 of them as one soldier, Private Moalosi Khoale, was killed by malaria in Mozambique.
According to the soldiers who spoke to Newsday on condition of anonymity, the soldiers were promised a daily allowance of US$39 (about M655) from SADC and a monthly salary of about M23,000 from the government.
During their stay in Cabo Delgado, they said they were only paid their monthly salaries but did not get daily allowances.
“We are aware that SADC has sent the money to the Lesotho government but what is surprising is that we have not received any. We were told while still in Mozambique that some money from SADC will be sent to our government to pay us but that has not happened,” the soldiers said.
They indicated that they were told before leaving Mozambique that they would get their allowances when they arrive home.
“We are home now and there is still no money and no one is saying anything about it,” they said.
The aggrieved soldiers also told Newsday that they were told they will have a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro and had planned to ask him about their allowances but such a meeting has not taken place.
They said: “We have been waiting to meet him but in vain. We are only told that he is very busy.”
They are afraid that if they do not get their money before the elections, the in-coming government might refuse to pay them.
“On top of that, what frustrates us more is that our counterparts from other countries who were also on the mission received their stipends long before we could come home.
“Not only have we not been paid the money from SADC but the government has also not yet paid us our money for the month of May,” they said.
They were supposed to have arrived home at the end of April, they said, but spent the whole of May in Mozambique.
“We were getting about M23, 000 each month from the government but we have not been paid for the month of May, we were last paid in April,” they said.
They added that: “Since arriving here we do not know anything about what is happening. We were only told to stay at home. We do not know if we are on leave or waiting to meet the PM.”
They also claimed that there were no contracts signed before they were deployed. “Everything was just done informally,” they said.
The Minister of Defense, Halebonoe Setšabi told Newsday that he was aware of the soldiers’ grievances, and confirmed that their salaries for May were actually delayed but indicated that he was not in a position to say anything about daily allowances.
“I do not want to sound arrogant, especially because here we are dealing with issues affecting people’s daily lives. I will find out from the Principal Secretary (PS) what is really going on. One thing I can say is that allowances for May have been delayed and that is being worked on. Other allegations I cannot confirm or deny,” Setšabi said.
He further indicated that he was not aware of the arrangements that the soldiers would get daily allowances from SADC and did not know where they got that from.
Ministry of Defence’s PS, ‘Maphunye Monare, said she had heard through informal channels about the alleged soldiers’ grievances and indicated that they were not real issues pending receipt of a formal complaint from the soldiers.
She however indicated that the money the soldiers had been receiving as their monthly allowances was in fact the one from SADC.
“They have been getting allowances monthly and I do not understand where they thought the money was coming from. That was from SADC and the government added some on top of it, which added up to the amount they got monthly. If they were given only the money from SADC they would have received less than they have been getting,” she said.
At the rate of M 23 000 per month, the government still has to pay the 124 soldiers at least M 2 852 000 in allowances for the month of May which has been admitted to be delayed.
Speaking for the army, LDF’s public relations officer (PRO) Captain Sakeng Lekola said he was not in a position to comment on the soldiers’ allegations.
He indicated that the soldiers working on the SADC mission to Mozambique were still the responsibility of the government.