Discharged soldier fights for his dues

Discharged soldier fights for his dues

MASERU – A SOLDIER who was discharged for the 1998 mutiny is suing the Lesotho army commander after he refused to pay his gratuity and leave days.
Ex-Corporal Khoejane Makhele filed an application for a writ of mandamus last week.

A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfil their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.

He wants the court to order the commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, to comply with the Defence Minister’s directive to pay him.
Former Defence Minister Tefo Mapesela, through a savingram, instructed Lieutenant General Letsoela to pay Makhele his dues which was not done.
He also wants the court to declare that the commander and the Lesotho Defence Force LDF)’s failure to pay him his dues was “discriminatory and or unlawful”.

He also wants the court to declare his four-year detention in the Maseru Central Prison facility when serving a military sentence illegal.
Makhele was discharged in 1998 after the Court Martial convicted and jailed him for mutiny.
He has been fighting for his gratuity since his release from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison in August 2005.

The army remains adamant that he does not deserve a cent because he was convicted for mutiny, the most serious military offence.
In April last year Makhele asked Mapesela to intervene.
On April 20 Mapesela instructed Lt Gen Letsoela, through a savingram, to pay Makhele “within a month upon receipt of this notice”.

In the savingram Mapesela said the Defence Minister’s discretion to pay ex-Corporal Makhele welled from Regulation 46 of the Defence Force (Regular Force) (Other Ranks) of 1998.

That regulation stipulates that a soldier discharged or dismissed may be paid “if his pensionable service amounts to 10 or more years but less than 20 years…gratuity as the (Defence) Minister may determine”.
“I have looked at all circumstances surrounding this case. I am of the opinion that he is entitled to gratuity because of his fine conduct before commitment of munity,” Mapesela said.
“It would amount to double punishment because he has already served his conviction.”

Makhele started fighting for his gratuity soon after his release from prison in August 2005 but the then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who was also the Defence Minister, allegedly refused.
He was arrested in 1998 for mutiny during Lesotho’s infamous security and political upheavals and incarcerated until 2005.

Immediately after his release, he wrote to Mosisili and the then commander claiming his gratuities.
“I saw that it was not going to happen as long as Mosisili was Prime Minister and so I stopped bothering them,” Ex-Corporal Makhele once told thepost.

When Thabane became Prime Minister in 2012 Ex-Corporal Makhele revived his quest for his gratuity.
Thabane tried to intervene but hit a brick wall when then Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli refused to pay him.
A January 2019 savingram from the principal secretary of Defence, Moshoeshoe Sehloho, to Deputy Attorney General Tsebang Putsoane shows how Lt Gen Kamoli ignored Thabane’s order.

“The Prime Minister’s instruction was conveyed to the LDF Commander as per Ministry’s Savingram dated 21st January 2013,” said Sehloho, now chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
“Despite the fact that the instruction from the Minister of Defence (Thabane as Prime Minister in 2013) was specifically about payment of gratuity and other related benefits to Ex-Corporal Makhele, the Commander deliberately misdirected himself by addressing the re-instatement of Ex-Corporal Makhele, which was never an issue in the Prime Minister’s instruction.”

Sehloho said Thabane was informed of Lt Gen Kamoli’s response “and he indicated that he would personally pursue the issue with the then Commander of Lesotho Defence Force”.

Makhele said after Thabane’s fall in 2015 and Mosisili returned, he stopped pursuing the matter because he knew the new Prime Minister was not interested.
“I stopped the pursuit because I understood that it was not in his interest,” he said.

“However, I want to emphasise that I doubt that Mosisili wrote the army commander refusing the payment of my gratuity. This is because up to this day the LDF is failing to produce Mosisili’s directive as the then Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.”

Makhele believes the army is discriminating against him because other soldiers convicted of mutiny by the Court Martial received their benefits.
“Some of these soldiers were convicted of serious crimes such as murder, arson, attempted murder and rape,” he said.

Staff Reporter

 

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