In 1982 local communities were forcibly relocated and their land expropriated, without compensation, to make way for Moshoeshoe I International Airport. This occurred while Lesotho’s constitution was suspended under the government of Joseph Leabau Jonathan, the second Prime Minister of the country. In June 2019 the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism reported that government plans to upgrade and expand the airport, at a cost of M5-billion (USD435 million), have reopened historical wounds in affected communities and raised fears of further land grabs. The upgrade plans include a 1 kilometer runway extension and construction of a new VIP terminal building. The project would utilize undeveloped land that lies outside the airport’s current perimeter fence but is part of the parcel of land expropriated 37 years ago. Residents of 15 villages surrounding the airport insist that all of the seized land still belongs to them and have banded together, forming a committee to protect their interests. Recalling the events of 1982 Tšeliso Moroke, the spokesperson of the villagers’ committee, recalled that his mother was pregnant and about to give birth “when a bulldozer driven by men in army uniforms demolished our homes and destroyed our possessions”. He said that residents of Moeaneng village knew that they faced relocation for the airport and expected to be moved to new houses. But his mother was one of many villagers who were placed in hurriedly erected shacks, built in a day from the ruins of their demolished houses. The shacks were weak and porous and often blew away in strong winds, so Moroke’s mother had to find refuge for herself and her newborn baby in a nearby village. Displaced people of Moeaneng village finally received government built houses three years later, in 1985, but most of them were just single room units built from raw breezeblocks. Moroke said the houses offered did not match what had been bulldozed; his parents lost a five-roomed house and a garage. The MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism visited 11 affected households and found them in a sorry state. The houses were too small to accommodate basic domestic utilities. One villager said that they had toilets in the homes they had lost, but not in the new houses. Villagers also lamented the loss of fields which they said were grabbed by the government without compensation. Moroke said grabbing of fields that they owned continued even after a new democratically elected government took power in 1993; unknown people claiming to be government employees would enter cultivated fields and erect yellow poles without consulting them. Villagers also complained that land acquisition for the airport was skewed in favour of chiefs and the royal family, with the location of the perimeter fence altered to accommodate their interests and excluded from the airport layout. In 2009 villagers attempted to regain control of their fields, asking a lawyer to voice their complaints in a letter to the then Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili. The letter stated that “the dictatorship and oppressive regime of Mr Beabua Jonathan forcefully, wrongfully and unlawfully impounded the clients’ fields to build Moshoeshoe I International Airport”. Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe responded that “government could not be held accountable for things that happened a long time ago”. The villagers are demanding retrospective compensation for land taken from them in 1982 as their precondition for cooperating with the government and releasing additional land for the airport upgrade. The situation is complicated by the fact, even though they do not owning title deeds, villagers have sold some of the land for residential development. The area councillor, who is also a member of the Mohlakeng Community Land Distribution Committee, confirmed that villagers lack title deeds for land now owned by the airport. A meeting was held on 15th May 2019 for villagers affected by the airport upgrade. Moshoesheo Airport’s general manager, Letsoaka Sekonyela, warned residents against further construction on the disputed area and said the government would “engage those who have encroached on airport-reserved land” before the expansion project begins. He estimated that construction could start early in 2020. Senior officials have stated that a cabinet decision will be needed in order to decide how to handle the dispute.