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While Lesotho’s prime minister is on his way home, SADC is expected to send a team to monitor the situation in the country.
Lesotho’s leaders have also agreed to “take steps” to reopen Parliament. This follows an alleged coup plot by Lesotho’s military over the weekend. President Jacob Zuma met with Lesotho’s prime minister, Thomas Thabane, and other Lesotho and regional officials in Pretoria over the weekend.
The SADC executive secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, was also in attendance, according to the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco). In a joint statement by the SADC troika and Lesotho governmental leaders on Monday evening, Lesotho’s leaders announced that they would take steps to lift the suspension of parliament.
“In this regard, they agreed on the roadmap with clear timelines on how to remove the Parliament prorogation, which shall be submitted to the King. The Leaders further agreed to issue a joint statement appealing for calm and exercise restraint with a view to rapidly bring law and order back in the Kingdom,” the statement said. A SADC facilitator and a team specialising in politics, defense and security, would also be sent to Lesotho urgently.
A Thabane-aide told APF on Monday that the prime minister was on his way home. “We are going home now, most probably we will be in Lesotho tomorrow,” Samonyane Ntsekele, the premier’s advisor told AFP in Pretoria, where security organ of the 15-member SADC held marathon emergency talks on the crisis.
Control of Lesotho
With Lesotho’s prime minister, deputy prime minister, and other coalition government members in a meeting with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Monday, and several other members of the government and police reportedly in hiding in South Africa, it was not clear who was running the country on Monday.
Zuma met with the country’s leadership in light of Saturday’s alleged military coup plot. On Saturday, Lesotho’s military reportedly took control of several police stations in what has been called an alleged coup plot. But the military denied that this was a coup attempt, although Lesotho’s prime minister, Thomas Thabane fled the country fearing for his life.
Zuma’s meeting followed calls for SADC intervention, including a call by Thabane himself that SADC should send soldiers into the country. The Lesotho Times reported on Monday that the armed forces went looking for Thabane, but he had already skipped the border.
The publication also reported that Lesotho’s courts had been suspended in light of the unrest. The Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, Lesitsi Mokeke, spoke to the Lesotho Times on Monday.
“The honourable Acting Chief Justice (Tšeliso Monaphathi) has been advised by the police that according to the prevailing situation in the country, judges should not report for work as their security would be compromised. You are aware that the courts are protected by the police and now that they are not on duty, it means there is no security for judges and everybody else in the courts,” Mokeke told the paper.
Control of military
Meanwhile, AFP reporter, Andrew Beatty reported that Lesotho’s public service minister, Motloheloa Phooko declared himself acting prime minister. But it was not clear who was now in charge of the military.
The king of Lesotho is taking action to fill a power vacuum after the military’s actions over the weekend caused the prime minister to flee the mountainous African country. King Letsie III is appointing a Cabinet minister to run the country as both the prime minister and deputy prime minister are in neighbouring South Africa, Foreign AffairsMinister Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa said Monday.
It was not immediately clear who would be named to run the nation of about 2-million that is surrounded by South Africa. The military said they disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, on Saturday. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane called the actions a coup attempt, but Lesotho Defense Forces say they only stepped in after getting information that police were planning to supply arms to participants in a demonstration.
Thabane said he fled to South Africa in fear for his life and to consult with regional leaders there. Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing was put in charge, according to provisions in the constitution, but he is now in South Africa to attend thetalks. “In our constitution, the recent prime minister, if he’s outside or indisposed, the deputy prime minister automatically takes over. In the event that both are outside of the country, in accordance with the constitution, the king appoints a minister to take over,” said Tsekoa, the foreign minister.
“Our leaders are in the middle of talking and defining the way forward.”
Talks for a peaceful solution
President Jacob Zuma met again on Monday with Thabane and Metsing, according to Nelson Kgwete a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations. A third coalition party leader, Thesele Maseribane, was also in South Africa for meetings with representatives from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The countries are a part of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which is trying to find a resolution to Lesotho’s crisis. Political tensions have been high between Thabane and Metsing and within the coalition government in the tiny kingdom since June when Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence.
Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party and Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy formed a coalition with Maseribane’s Basotho National Party after 2012 elections, but since then conflict has simmered. “We must remove whatever obstacles that might come before us. We have to mend our relationship and continue to develop our country,” Thabane told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
There was little evidence of the conflict on Monday in Maseru. The demonstration had also been called off. The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power.
Lesotho has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966. The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002. – Additional reporting by Sarah Evans. M&G
Lesotho ‘coup': Sadc rejects Thabane’s troop request
Regional leaders have rejected calls by Lesotho’s exiled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for the immediate deployment of troops to help restore order in his country, an official has told the BBC.
Instead, an observer team would be urgently sent to Lesotho, she said.
Mr Thabane fled to South Africa on Saturday, claiming the military had staged a coup – a charge it denied.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma hosted emergency talks with Mr Tabane and others on Monday.
Lesotho, a mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa, has experienced several coups since independence in 1966.
The latest unrest is understood to be linked to a power struggle between Mr Thabane, reportedly supported by the police, and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, said to have the loyalty of the army.
Both of them attended the talks convened by Mr Zuma in Pretoria under the banner of the South African Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc.
The two leaders had agreed to “clear timetables” that would lead to the restoration of parliament, according to a statement by Sadc.
Its restoration was a key demand of Mr Metsing.
‘Exchange of fire’
Earlier on Monday, his supporters abandoned plans to protest in the capital, Maseru, over Mr Thabane’s decision in June to suspend parliament after being threatened with a no-confidence vote.
Maseru is calm, but there are fears that conflict could erupt again, reports the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko from South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg.
The military is said to be rounding up policemen and stripping them of their uniforms, she says.
Some policemen have reportedly abandoned their posts and fled to South Africa, our correspondent adds.
Sadc executive Stergomena Tax told the BBC that regional leaders had ruled out sending troops to Lesotho any time soon.
The meeting decided that a “facilitator” should be sent to help the parties resolve differences, Ms Tax said.
During the talks, Mr Thabane appealed for a peacekeeping force to be deployed, his aide said.
“You can no longer say you can only send a mission. You need an intervention of soldiers,” Samonyane Ntsekele is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
Conflict broke out on Saturday morning with soldiers involved in an exchange of fire outside two police stations.
One police officer was killed and four wounded after the military intervened, police say.
Earlier, Lesotho military spokesman Ntlele Ntoi said the military had received intelligence that the police were going to arm factions ahead of Monday’s march by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
The LCD is led by Mr Metsing, who has been in an uneasy coalition with Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention since 2012.
Earlier, Mr Thabane told the BBC he would return from South Africa “as soon as I know I am not going to get killed”.
He said the army had rendered the government “dysfunctional”, an action that amounted to a coup.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the “military takeover” and called for respect for “democratic rule”. BBC