SADC chairperson President Mugabe has dispatched Ministers of Defence, Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and Foreign Affairs, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, to South Africa to gather information on the alleged coup in Lesotho. Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Mr George Charamba, yesterday said President Mugabe, as the Sadc chair, would get a briefing from South Africa on the matter.
South African President Jacob Zuma chairs the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.
“That matter is being handled, it is a delicate matter and we do not issue statements. However, what I can tell you is that ministers of Foreign Affairs (Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi) and Defence (Dr Sydney Sekeramayi) are on their way to South Africa now. South Africa is the chair of the Organ and Zimbabwe as the chair of Sadc will get briefing from South Africa. We are in the stage of gathering information in terms of what is happening then we will act,” Mr Charamba said.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha said President Mugabe would receive an official report from South Africa.
“We are yet to get the full report from President Zuma, who is the chair of the Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, and is directly involved with such matters. The chair of the Troika can also call an urgent meeting with the blessing of the Chairperson, depending on how he sees the situation,” Mr Bimha told our sister paper The Sunday Mail.
On the same day, South Africa’s international relations spokesman, Khesi Monyela, said they would not tolerate any unconstitutional change of government in Lesotho but ruled out any military intervention in that country. According to media reports, Monyela said they were engaging all the key players in Lesotho in an effort to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis. He said South Africa was calling on the Lesotho army commander “to call on the army to go back to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to continue with its business.”
The coup comes barely two weeks after the 34th Sadc Summit in Victoria Falls urged coalition partners in Lesotho’s government to find lasting solutions to their problems.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled an alleged assassination attempt to South Africa, though Sports Minister and Basotho National Party boss Thesele Maseribane said the government was in control. The premier called on Sadc to act against the alleged coup plotters. The military denies attempting a coup. Thabane was due to meet South African leaders on Saturday.
Lesotho army spokesperson Major Ntlele Ntoi told the media that the military had only moved against police officers suspected of planning to arm a political faction. Maj Ntoi said one soldier and four police officers were injured during the army action. Reuters cited diplomatic sources saying the military moved after the PM fired army commander Lieutenant-General Kennedy Kamoli, with Maj Ntoi saying Kamoli remained in charge. Minister Maseribane told journalists that the military jammed radio stations and phone networks.
“The (military) commander said he was looking for me, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister to take us to the king. In our country, that means a coup,” he said.
Two months ago, parliament was suspended, prompting South Africa to warn it would not tolerate instability.
This was after PM Thabane clashed with his deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing, the leader of Lesotho Congress for Democracy. There were claims that Metsing could have been behind the alleged coup plot.
Yesterday, Metsing who remained in charge of the country, arrived in Pretoria for talks at the invitation of Cde Zuma, although he insists that there is no coup in the Southern African kingdom.
At the Victoria Falls Sadc Summit, regional leaders “appealed to all political leaders and the people in general to refrain from any action that may undermine peace and stability in the country and urged political stakeholders to resolve the political challenges in accordance with the constitution, laws of the land in line with the democratic principles”.
Lesotho is no stranger to political crises since independence from Britain in 1966. After the 1970 elections, the Basotho National Party refused to cede power when it appeared to have lost the polls.
A state of emergency was declared, the constitution suspended and parliament dissolved.
In 1986 the military — supported by apartheid South Africa — seized control. A military council ruled Lesotho with King Moshoeshoe II.
Come 1990, King Moshoeshoe II was exiled, with a new military authority establishing a National Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution and spelt out a roadmap for return to civilian rule by 1992. However, junior army officers mutinied in 1991 and installed Phisoane Ramaema as chair of the military council.
King Moshoeshoe II refused to return to the country and his son was enthroned King Letsie III.
Moshoeshoe II returned to Lesotho in 1992 as an ordinary citizen but became king again in 1995 when Letsie III abdicated the throne in favour of his father.
King Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident in 1996 and his son once again ascended to the throne.
Stability returned in 1999 and the Sadc taskforce withdrew, leaving a small unit — which Zimbabwe joined — to train the Lesotho Defence Forces.