Parties to reinstate Lesotho parliament

2014-09-01 21:58
Thomas Thabane

Thomas Thabane

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Johannesburg - Lesotho's ruling parties agreed on Monday to lift a suspension of parliament ordered by the prime minister in June in bid to restore normality following an alleged coup attempt.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and the leader of the third coalition party, Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane "committed to working together" to restore stability, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said.

The three earlier met with President Jacob Zuma and other representatives of the SADC regional bloc in Pretoria.

Thabane fled to South Africa on Saturday when soldiers seized weapons from several police stations and surrounded his residence. One police officer was killed and several injured.

Thabane supporters accused Metsing of trying to overthrow him, but the deputy premier and the army denied there had been a coup attempt.

Government spokesperson Ramakhula Ramakhula told dpa Thabane had sought a military intervention by SADC in Lesotho to restore order, but said Metsing had opposed the proposal, arguing there was "no serious problem" in the southern African kingdom.

SADC pledged to help the parties create a road map to reactivate parliament, which had been suspended by Thabane to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the 2-year-old coalition government.

Thabane was expected to return to Lesotho shortly, possibly already on Monday, Ramakhula said.

South African media said Lieutenant General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli was thought to have ordered the attacks against police stations after Thabane removed him from his post as army chief and replaced him with Maaparankoe Mahao.

Mahao told broadcaster eNCA that he was in charge of the army, but Ramakhula and army spokesperson Major Ntele Ntoi denied it, saying Kamoli remained the commander of the armed forces.

Ramakhula said Mahao had fled to South Africa after unknown gunmen attacked his home in what was thought to be an attempt to kill him on Saturday.

Cops on the run

Ntoi denied that the army had attempted a coup, saying it had tried to disarm "rogue elements" at some police stations who were supplying weapons to the youth wing of one of the government parties.

Ntoi said Thabane remained the prime minister and power had not changed hands.

"Our soldiers are back to barracks, and all is well and normal," he told dpa.

But eNCA said many police officers had fled the country for fear of attacks by the army.

Lesotho's capital, Maseru, was calm, though residents stocked up on food and basic necessities. A demonstration planned by the opposition was cancelled for fear of violence.

Thabane fled Lesotho just before the unrest, arriving in the Free State, where he was taken under government protection, according to the Sunday Times.

The government denied a Times report that South African special forces had foiled a coup. The Times did not give sources for its information.

The newspaper also reported that Thabane was believed to have replaced Kamoli over his support for Metsing, who had threatened to oust him. Maseribane was quoted as saying Metsing faced corruption charges and Kamoli had intended to protect him from being arrested, which led to the army chief's removal.

Lesotho police are seen as being loyal to Thabane while the army is closely aligned with Metsing.

Lesotho, a mountain kingdom of 2 million residents inside eastern South Africa, has experienced frequent political unrest since independence from Britain in 1966.

Read more on:    sadc  |  jacob zuma  |  thomas thabane  |  lesotho  |  southern africa

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