News / Africa

SADC, Lesotho Leaders to Discuss Political Crisis

A worker hangs posters displaying newspaper headlines in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, Aug. 31, 2014.
A worker hangs posters displaying newspaper headlines in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, Aug. 31, 2014.
VOA News

The prime minister of the southern African kingdom of Lesotho, who fled what he called an attempted coup, is in South Africa to discuss recent unrest in his country.

Thomas Thabane accused Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minster Mothetjoa Metsing, who is now in charge of the country, of orchestrating the unrest.

Regional ministers of the Southern African Development Community were to meet Sunday with Thabane and Metsing to resolve the political stalemate that led to the alleged coup over the weekend, SADC executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax said.

FILE - Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels, Apr. 2, 2014.FILE - Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels, Apr. 2, 2014.
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FILE - Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels, Apr. 2, 2014.
FILE - Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels, Apr. 2, 2014.

Tax said calm appears to have returned to Lesotho after gunshots were heard when military police surrounded government buildings and Thabane's official resident during an alleged coup attempt Saturday in the capital, Maseru.

“We have intervened by encouraging the leaders to resolve their differences in a democratic manner. We are encouraging them to ensure that everything goes back to normal and that is happening. The situation has normalized now,” Tax said.

Alleged coup attempt

Thabane, who fled with his family to neighboring South Africa after receiving intelligence that he was the target of a military assassination attempt, described the unrest as a coup attempt.

However, military spokesman Major Ntlele Ntoi said the military was trying to secure the country before a mass anti-government demonstration scheduled for Monday.

"What happened this morning was that the command of the Lesotho Defense Force was acting after receiving several intelligence reports that amongst the police service, there are some elements who are actually planning to arm some of the political, party political youth fanatics who were on the verge of wrecking havoc," Ntoi said.

U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has called for respect for the constitutional order and democratic rule.

In a statement Sunday, Ban welcomed efforts by the SADC, the Commonwealth and other partners in Lesotho to support the restoration of trust among members of the government.

The United States called for a "peaceful dialogue" and respect for the democratic process in the kingdom.

'Want my neck'

In a phone interview with VOA, Thabane said the situation involved "total indiscipline" in the army. He said soldiers were "running around the streets, threatening people" and "quite openly stating that they want my neck."

Thabane accused a former top military commander of leading the unrest. He said he would return to his country as soon as he knew he "was not going to get killed."

Military officials in Lesotho, a country of about 2 million people, have denied plotting a coup.

Thabane told VOA the attempt to overthrow his administration stemmed from his fight to root out corruption in Lesotho. He urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help restore order.

A South African government spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said no one is claiming leadership in Lesotho. However, he said the military's actions have the markings of a putsch.

"Although no one has claimed to have taken over government through the use of force, by all accounts the activities of the Lesotho defense force thus far bear the hallmarks of a coup d'etat," he said.

A rocky recent history

The mountainous kingdom, surrounded by South Africa, has repeatedly been beset by political instability since gaining independence in 1966. Until then it had been a British protectorate known as Basutoland.

A peaceful election in 2012 produced a three-party coalition government that many observers hoped would bring lasting stability — but the fragile government reportedly collapsed several months ago.

In June, South Africa had issued a stern warning to Lesotho after the prime minister suspended parliament in what appeared to be an attempt to dodge a no-confidence vote.

Instability is inherent in Lesotho’s political system, said Tom Wheeler, a former South African diplomat who is now an independent analyst.

"Well, I suppose the problem is it’s a democracy," Wheeler said, noting that coalition partners and the opposition disagreed "with what the prime minister is doing, and therefore have pulled the plug on the coalition. And I think that’s the cause of the instability.

"This man who’s the prime minister is a democratically elected person from a not-majority party, and that sort of instability is built into the system."

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a king whose powers are largely ceremonial.

South Africa’s role

Wheeler said South Africans should not be overly concerned about upheaval in the enclave, despite their history of armed intervention in Lesotho's previous political crises.

"It’s not going be a big issue," he said, recalling that in 1998, Mangosuthu Buthelezi — a tribal leader who’d held senior positions in the African National Congress — was South Africa’s acting president while Nelson Mandela was abroad.

He sent an SADC force to Lesotho to try to prevent a coup. The troops “were repulsed by the Lesotho army. It was a great embarrassment to South Africa,” Wheeler said.

"So I think we would stand back and say, ‘Get on with it, boys, it’s not our problem,’ and not be worried about it."

VOA's English to Africa service contributed to this report. Anita Powell contributed reporting from Johannesburg.

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Comments page of 2
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by: molumo r from: maseru roma
September 03, 2014 4:15 AM
The situation lesotho is not as bad as people assume the only thing that's making situations worse is social media # democracy is the worst form of governence

by: Solomon from: Maseru, LSO
September 01, 2014 5:57 PM
The situations were or are still unfavourable, but I too wish that SADC should just give some advices not to come as on 1998 whereby our country's economy was also affected. Way forward,I wish that PM & DPM settle all their issues.

by: Anonymous
September 01, 2014 4:48 PM
Thank u presidant Zuma continue to be a fear mediator

by: Phoka from: Maseru Lesotho
August 31, 2014 3:30 PM
I totally dislike what happened because the military actions in Saturday are politically influenced and the world in not given the truth, any mediation from abroad is going to couse a bloodshed.More Basotho are going to starve.Those leaders must think of Basotho not their wealth.

by: Kim Lony Gatluak from: South Sudan
August 31, 2014 11:37 AM
Why Africa? Be come most corruption Nation in the world
is't lack of politcal.
Like youngest nation South Sudan which start fightings last year . The president of Repubilc of South Sudan Salva Kiir Who kill Naath Nuer tribe with tribals
and as he is still president why he isn't step down to get peace in country.
May God bless all africa nation to be in peace,

fine me with my e-mail Adress
kimlony2014@gmail.com

by: Raphael mphezulu from: Maseru lesotho
August 31, 2014 10:57 AM
There is peace and staability in the country now, the Prime ministers tough stance on corruption does not sit well with LCD leaders and opposition party (DC) let by Pakalitha Mosisili, hence why there Lesotho defence force is behaving in this manner led by General Kamoli who was appointed by previous prime minister, the General and a certain faction in the military are protecting those who put them in power,

by: Smitha from: Usa
August 31, 2014 7:45 AM
I was born and brought up in this beautiful country Lesotho and still frequently visit it.Its true that they had an issue like this in 1998 but There has otherwise never been instability in this country.Most of the people here have good access to food water and all basic needs.Most of them are educated and have good jobs.The Basotho people are also some of the most kindest and loving people in the whole world.The writer of this article needs to first get his facts straight before just writing that the country is always having instability .Lesotho is one of the most beautiful places on earth and I can't wait to go back to visit this little heaven on earth

by: maj gen ranvir yadav from: delhi, india
August 31, 2014 7:33 AM
I was Security Advisor cum Team Leader of Indian Army Training Team (IATT) in the country. In 2000 on the request of kingdom of lesotho IATT started the process of depoliticisation of LDF and training them as professional Army. I was present during 2007 peaceful elections. Post elections the present PM was opposition leader and he did try to destabilise the then Govt but failed as situation was deftly handled.
Post 2012 appointing a 45 years old immature officer as LDF Commander is part of the problem. It is due to present PMs fault that situation as come to this stage.
In Response

by: eric
September 01, 2014 11:04 AM
Yes General you are right in this respect - however depoliticization
doesn't always work, Zimbabwe is a classic point where the intergration process failed and the 5th Brigade trained by the North Koreans came into being and the rest you know was "History".

by: AMB June Carter Perry,ret from: Washington, DC
August 30, 2014 6:00 PM
Having served as the U.S. ambassador to Lesotho (2004-2007), I believe to simply suggest to let South Africa and Lesotho "go at it," is an irresponsible statement. The country has made significant strides in the health and business areas. Democracy and rule of law do not develop overnight in any country. Lesotho needs mediation from Botswana as well as Western allies. Surely, this small but key nation can overcome this situation in a peaceful manner.
In Response

by: billy bob from: South Africa
August 31, 2014 5:30 PM
I don't think he meant let SA and Lesotho have a war. Think its a typo and he said let Lesotho sort out their problems, i.e south africa should not get involved.
In Response

by: You think?
August 31, 2014 12:20 PM
Its amazing that even in this age, you still feel you have the moral obligation to have the West just bulldoze and intervene. You always see the world in your eyes, in which you are always right and always understand every situation.

Support existing African structures like SADC and AU.
In Response

by: martin
August 31, 2014 12:04 AM
Agreed, unfortunately Ambassador, this is Africa, where in the past, both the UN and the West have failed to uphold and support good governance in well known African countries, where genocide has occurred and the justice system ? has collapsed. Mediation for those countries is now history and research can confirm this, sad but very true.
In Response

by: michael lutz from: USA
August 30, 2014 8:55 PM
the Basotho people are some of the kindest and hospitable people in the world. I've been working there for five years and have never considered it "unstable". yes they are struggling with those few with power. but pretty much everyone there has access to food-shelter-clothing. more than I can say for much of the west and africa. I wouldn't hesitate to go back there tomorrow and probably will later this year.

by: Eugene from: RSA
August 30, 2014 3:40 PM
The problem with Africa, including Lesotho is that the leadership are for themselves they're greedy politicians and do not understand the need for people to be developed and educated Thus the fruits of their greed remains a continious struggle for power a democratic system just cannot work.
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