Africa

Department denies SA's involvement in Lesotho

Sapa

The defence department says South African troops have not been involved in foiling an alleged coup in Lesotho.

Lesotho has suffered a series of coups since independence in 1966 and the political temperature in the country has been rising rapidly in recent months. (AFP)

Spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said that as “far as [he] was aware” there had been “none whatsoever” – in terms of reports that South African soldiers had assisted in bringing down an alleged mutiny.

Dlamini was responding to an article in the Sunday Times newspaper under the headline “SA special forces foil Lesotho coup”.

The article reported that South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops – based in Phalaborwa, Limpopo – had entered the country on Friday – along with a group of diplomats. The article said a pre-dawn raid had then been carried out on Saturday in Maseru to assist Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane to flee the country into South Africa.

“I’m not sure that the reports from the Sunday Times are accurate. This matter is at a much higher level than just the defence force,” said Dlamini.

He said the matter would be dealt with by the Southern African Development Community.

Dlamini said the South Africa government continued to “monitor the situation”.

On Saturday, a Lesotho goverment minister told Agence France-Presse that Lesotho’s military had seized control of police headquarters and the premier’s residence in the capital Maseru in the early hours of Saturday but later withdrew.

“The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police,” sports minister and leader of the Basotho National Party, Thesele Maseribane, told the news agency at the time.

Feared for his life
Thabane told the BBC on Saturday that he had fled to South Africa in fear of his life.

“I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Lesotho defence force spokesperson Ntlele Ntoi told the Associated Press that the military’s operation was carried out to disarm the police as intelligence had suggested they were planning to arm certain political parties at a demonstration planned for Monday.

According to the news agency, Ntoi denied that their actions were an attempted coup.

On Saturday, South Africa’s department of international relations said it was not immediately sending troops to Lesotho and said diplomacy should be given a chance.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town issued a statement in which he called for prayers for Lesotho and for violence to be avoided.

“The situation is ugly,” he said. – Sapa

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