Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Zuma to head talks on Lesotho crisis

President Jacob Zuma was due to meet Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Monday to try to resolve a political crisis after an apparent coup there over the weekend, a government spokesperson said.

Thabane fled Lesotho for South Africa early on Saturday, hours before the army surrounded his residence and overran police stations in the capital Maseru, in what the prime minister called a coup by the military.

Lesotho’s army denied seeking to oust Thabane, saying it moved against police suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the southern African nation. One police officer was shot dead and four others wounded.

Diplomats said the unrest stems from a power struggle between Thabane, who is supported by the police and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who has the loyalty of the army.

Tension had risen since Thabane suspended Parliament in June amid feuding in the two-year-old governing coalition.

Acting Prime Minster
Lesotho’s minister of public service, Motloheloa Phooko, told AFP on Monday that he was the country’s acting prime minister, after the elected premier fled the country during an apparent coup.

“I am acting prime minister,” the minister said from Maseru, citing “cabinet protocol” for his appointment while the prime minister and deputy prime minister are in South Africa. Phooko is a member of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, which forms an acrimonious coalition government with Prime Minister Tom Thabane. 

The party has denied any role in the alleged coup.

Further raids on police
In Maseru, the atmosphere was quiet but tense on Monday after the police commissioner said soldiers had carried out further raids on police installations and even officers’ homes, taking away weapons and uniforms.

Commissioner Khothatso Ts’ooana told Public Choice FM radio station that this meant police would not be able to carry out their normal duties. Police stations were deserted and some officers had fled over the border into South Africa.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) defence and security troika, which includes officials from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, met Thabane through the night to try to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

Talks were due to resume on Monday but it was not clear if Metsing, who Thabane says orchestrated the coup, would be in Pretoria to take part.

‘Find a peaceful solution’
“President Zuma will meet the Lesotho prime minister this [Monday] morning. It is part of the decision taken by the SADC troika on Sunday,” said Nelson Kgwete, a spokesperson for South Africa’s Department for International Relations and Co-operation.

“It was resolved that all parties should be consulted to find a peaceful solution,” Kgwete added.

Thabane told Reuters on Saturday he had fired the army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, and appointed Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao to replace him. But on Sunday Kamoli said he was still in charge of the military.

Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Force refuted claims that it was involved in foiling the alleged attempted coup. 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.

Lesotho, a mountainous state of two million people encircled by South Africa, has suffered a several coups since independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting in 1998, when Pretoria sent in troops.

Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho’s other big earner is hydropower and water, both of which it supplies to neighbour South Africa. – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Reuters
Guest Author

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Young and jobless? Apply for one of 287 000 education...

Education department urges young, jobless people to apply for teaching assistant vacancies

Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to...

The National Arts Council vows that every cent from the sector’s Covid-19-relief programme will be disbursed to artists, after auditors uncover maladministration

Covid-19 vaccine mandates: a constitutional balancing act

South Africa’s laws allow the government to implement mandatory Covid vaccinations but, if it chooses this path, it must do so responsibly

Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a more rigorous mayoral selection process, which will involve the party’s top six
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×