South Africa tries to ease internal Lesotho tension after PM deploys army – Metro US

South Africa tries to ease internal Lesotho tension after PM deploys army

Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, Prime Minister of Lesothoaddresses the 74th session
Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, Prime Minister of Lesothoaddresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York

MASERU, Lesotho (Reuters) – South Africa will pursue talks to restore calm in Lesotho on Monday after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane sent soldiers and armoured vehicles onto the streets of Maseru on Saturday to restore order against “rogue national elements”.

Lesotho supplies residents and farmers in South Africa’s Gauteng region with vital water supplies and Africa’s most developed country has helped broker peace talks in its smaller neighbour during previous bouts of political instability.

The South African envoys, who were urgently dispatched to help defuse weeks of political tension in the mountain kingdom of 2 million people, would continue talks for a second day on Monday, Thabane’s spokesman said.

Thabane, who is fighting for his political survival as he faces calls to quit and a possible criminal trial, said he had deployed the army in the capital to deal with forces he said wanted to destabilise Lesotho.

The country has experienced several coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966. In 1998 at least 58 people and eight South African soldiers died and parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.

Thabane, 80, had been scheduled to address the people of Lesotho at 1530 GMT on Sunday, but this was postponed until Monday, his spokesman Relebohile Moyeye said.

“We are not sure when the statement will be tomorrow because the PM is meeting the (South African) envoy again tomorrow at 8am,” Moyeye added.


The latest upheaval follows Thabane’s decision to suspend parliament without consultation over the coronavirus pandemic. Last month’s move was challenged in the constitutional court by coalition partners and some 20 rivals within his own party.

The court ruled against Thabane’s decision on Friday, calling it “irrational”, paving the way for a threatened vote of no-confidence against Thabane once parliament reconvenes.

A parliamentary caucus meeting scheduled for Sunday by the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) was postponed because of the visit by South African envoys, a senior lawmaker said.

Internal divisions persist between Thabane loyalists and those who want him ousted. While no date has been set, Lesotho’s assembly is expected to meet this week.

“ABC is divided and we can no longer pretend,” said Lepota Sekola, adding that some members refused to honour Thabane’s call for the meeting as a show of dissatisfaction.

“We have had enough and we are just waiting for parliament to reopen … This is where he will meet us, not anywhere else,” Sekola said.

“He has nowhere to hide and has lost it. The electorate is against him, the judiciary and all other strategic institutions … meaning that the PM is finished,” Sofonea Shale, an independent political analyst, said on Sunday.

(Writing by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Alexander Smith)