Zuma gives Lesotho coalition deadline to open parly - report

President Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

Lesotho coalition leaders have been given two days to agree on a date to open Parliament by President Jacob Zuma, SABC News reported on Wednesday.

After meeting with coalition leaders on Tuesday, Zuma told the broadcaster that talks went well. He said leaders had reached a point where they would now “have to do further consultations” on their own over the next few days. 

“There would be further consultations among parties,” he said, after which an announcement would be made. Zuma arrived in Lesotho on Tuesday to facilitate peace talks after Lesotho Prime minister Thomas Thabane was forced to flee to South Africa last month during an attempted coup by its military. Thabane returned to Lesotho days later. 

Zuma and representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) brought together leaders from Lesotho’s coalition parties to resolve the differences. Thabane said they were committed to re-opening Parliament, but gave no date. Zuma was also expected to meet the main opposition Democratic Congress, which has 48 of 120 seats in Parliament, making it the largest single party in the National Assembly. 

The relationship between the Democratic Congress and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy was threatening to unseat Thabane in Parliament.

Further negotiations
Meanwhile, in earlier reports, rival Lesotho leaders vowed to resolve an 11-day crisis that has spurred calls for regional military intervention in the tiny African nation, after South Africa brokered talks on Tuesday.

But the parties remained silent on how to tackle the “renegade” Lesotho military commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who is accused of triggering the crisis on August 30, one day after he was fired by Thabane. 

Kamoli allegedly attempted an early morning coup, including the botched abduction of Thabane and an assault on several police stations. Thabane fled to South Africa in the aftermath. The general has refused to step down and last week led a circle of army loyalists in looting an armoury. Reports suggest he has hunkered down in military barracks outside the capital. 

Zuma has refused Thabane’s request to deploy troops from the 15-member SADC. “President Zuma is here to remind everyone of their political commitments from last week,” South African government spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
“Let’s give diplomacy a chance.” 

Any thought of military action comes with the baggage of 1998, when SADC troops led by South Africa marched into downtown Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, ostensibly to tame post-election violence. 

‘I can now see a light
That led to more than 60 deaths and vast property destruction. Thesele Maseribane, a junior leader in Lesotho’s coalition government, said he was cautiously optimistic after Tuesday’s meeting. “I can now see a light, that this can be done without bloodshed,” he said. 

“Kamoli must calm down, come to his senses – and we’ll listen to him, too.” A statement from the party of former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, a Kamoli ally, ratcheted up tension, warning of “atrocities and bloodbath” should the general be arrested. 

“General Kamoli is quite literally and without exaggeration, the last thread by which Lesotho’s democracy is hanging,” read the statement. “Mark our words.” Even if the talks lead to a concrete date for re-opening Parliament, Kamoli remains a wild card. “We can’t talk about moving forward politically when we have this prevailing security situation,” Home Minister Joang Molapo told Agence France-Presse. “We hope [Zuma] will help us return our military command to civilian control. Until then, we can’t take the option of military intervention off the table.” – Sapa; AFP

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