South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has dispatched his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa to Lesotho amid growing concerns at the deteriorating situation in that country.
Zuma had already sent a ministerial fact-finding mission headed by South African defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her Zimbabwean and Namibian counterparts to assess the situation in Lesotho.
Lesotho’s opposition parties told the fact-finding mission that Lesotho’s controversial army commander Tlali Kamoli must go if peace and stability are to return to the country.
The delegation met deputy leaders of the three opposition parties because the leaders have all fled to South Africa, fearing for their lives and it comes in the wake of the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao by soldiers of the Lesotho Defence Force last Thursday.
In a statement issued late on Monday night, the SADC said: “After receiving the report of the fact-finding mission, President Zuma has become more concerned about the apparent explosive security situation in Lesotho. In this regard, President Zuma has decided to urgently dispatch Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the SADC facilitator on Lesotho, to consult with Right Honourable Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.”
Zuma condemned the killing of Brigadier Mahao who was killed on June 25 2015 outside of Maseru. “This unfortunate and tragic incident threatens to undermine the Kingdom’s efforts towards the peaceful transition following the February 2015 elections,” he said.
“President Zuma has reiterated the need for all stakeholders in the Kingdom of Lesotho to resolve their political differences through legal and peaceful processes and further reiterated the pressing need to expedite the process of establishing institutional and security reforms, as recommended by the SADC Double Troika Summit held in Pretoria on 20th February 2015.”
Life under threat
The leaders who fled Lesotho include Tom Thabane, leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), who was prime minister until he was defeated by a coalition lead by current Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. Thesele Maseribane, leader of the Basotho National Party, which was in a coalition with the ABC in the previous government and Keketso Rantso, leader of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), have also fled Lesotho.
So the SADC delegation met their deputies who told them that Kamoli was behind the recent surge of political violence and would have to be removed if the country were to return to stability.
A few weeks ago prominent businessman, Thabiso Tsosane, a well known friend and funder of Thabane’s ABC was shot dead as he left a meeting with Thabane.
Mahao was a rival of Kamoli. Last August when Thabane, then still prime minister, fired Kamoli and replaced him with Mahao, Kamoli’s troops attacked Thabane’s and Mahao’s homes and forced them to flee the country.
Thabane was restored to his country and his position with the aid of South African security forces and Ramaphosa later brokered an accord among the Lesotho political parties to bring forwards elections from 2017 to this February.
Kamoli, Mahao and police commissioner Khothatso Tsooana were all sent abroad under the peace accords to restore stability. But Mosisili immediately reappointed Kamoli after he won the elections and took office.
It is expected that the SADC delegation will hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss its trip and its findings.