Lesotho’s ‘Humpty Dumpty government has fallen into pieces’

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest visit to Lesotho came within the context of the mandate as facilitator by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika, said his spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa on Wednesday.

The troika appointed Ramaphosa as facilitator to assist the people of Lesotho to address their current political and security challenges, and to facilitate the critical issues including the re-opening of Parliament, the stabilisation of the security situation, as well as bringing forward a date for elections, said Mamoepa.

Ramaphosa is currently in Maseru to mediate a political resolution after an attempted coup by the military on August 30. This resulted in Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fleeing to South Africa, and its Parliament being closed. Dozens of foreign police officers from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe are also in the country as part of SADC peace efforts.

Last month’s attempted seizure of power has been blamed on “renegade” Lesotho Defence Force commander Tlali Kamoli, who has refused to step down from the military, and been accused of a series of attacks on police and political rivals.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, political analyst and deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg Tinyiko Maluleke said he was not sure that Ramaphosa could solve the issues in Lesotho. 

“The Humpty Dumpty government has fallen into pieces. It was an alliance government. The memo that was signed at the Union Buildings was never followed through. What was agreed upon did not happen. The date to open Parliament was not adhered to and part of the agreement was that that will happen. The general is still awol and there was suspicion he may still have stockpiles of arms.” In addition, he said Prime Minister Tom Thabane “is a little nervous” as he was trying to  avoid a vote of no confidence in him and his party to rule.

Shootout
Meanwhile, two police officers in Lesotho were wounded on Tuesday night during a shootout between the forces and military, police said, in the latest fallout from an attempted coup a month ago.

Lesotho Mounted Police Service spokesperson Lebona Mohloboli confirmed to Agence France-Presse that “two police officers [were] shot and injured”. The gunfire exchange took place on the outskirts of Maseru, and outside the neighbouring houses of a senior government official and a military officer who is reportedly wanted in connection with the attempted coup. 

Details were still sketchy on Wednesday. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Tumisang Mosotho, a senior adviser to Thabane told AFP. Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, was rocked by an attempted coup on August 30 that has left relations between police and the armed forces on a knife-edge.

Government secretary Moahloli Mphaka, claiming he was the target of Tuesday’s attack, told the SABC that he fled his home when soldiers exchanged shots with the police officers guarding his house. “I was able to escape and hide,” he told the SABC. His neighbour is a military guard officer for deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, whom police are probing for “high treason” over his alleged role in the botched August 30 putsch.

Around two streets away from the scene of the shooting, an AFP correspondent saw two automatic weapons lying on the ground besides a civilian vehicle that had its windows shattered. 

Residents in the neighbourhood described the exchange of gunfire as “terrifying”. “It went on for an hour, with too many gunshots to count. First pistols, then automatic weapons that went rat-a-tat-tat-tat,” said one resident, who cowered with his wife in their home. 

Scouring the crime scene
Lesotho military and police were scouring the crime scene on Wednesday, while police observers from the SADC took photos and recreated the scene. 

Ramaphosa planned to make a “major” announcement on Thursday relating to his facilitation efforts in Lesotho, Mamoepa said on the day.

The announcement would be made at a press briefing in Maseru at 2pm. “He is expected to be joined in the press conference by leaders of political parties in Lesotho as well as SADC deputy executive secretary Dr Themba Mhlongo,” Mamoepa said in a statement. – Additional reporting by AFP and Sapa

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