Lesotho PM in hiding after coup

2014-08-31 15:00

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Lesotho’s beleaguered prime minister, Tom Thabane, is hoping to meet President Jacob Zuma to talk about the alleged coup that happened in his country in the early morning hours of yesterday.

The coup forced him to flee Lesotho to South Africa, where he is believed to be in hiding in a Johannesburg hotel.

“What we are doing with South Africa is to do everything to normalise the situation,” he told SABC news last night.

Thabane said he was hoping to meet with both Zuma, who was on his way back from a visit to Russia, and Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Mugabe recently secured the chairpersonship of the Southern African Development Community while Zuma was elected chairperson of the SADC troika on politics, defence and security.

Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj said he wasn’t aware of Thabane’s plans to meet with Zuma but Clayson Monyela, the department of international relations and cooperation’s deputy director-general for public diplomacy, said he South African government is set to call a meeting with SADC on Lesotho’s security situation.

South Africa has been assisting Lesotho since an attempted coup in June, when Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

He told SABC time has now “healed the wounds” and he was ready to reopen parliament.

Monyela said South Africa had no plans to send in the army to avert armed conflict because it wanted to resolve the dispute through “political engagements”.

However, military sources told City Press that the South African army was on stand-by.

Monyela warned warring Lesotho factions that even though no one had yet claimed responsibility for the military action “which has all the hallmarks of a coup d’état”, South Africa and its counterparts in the SADC and the African Union would not tolerate unconstitutional changes to Lesotho’s government.

The Lesotho army chief ordered the takeover of the tiny kingdom’s radio and TV stations in the early hours of yesterday morning. Meanwhile, government buildings were surrounded by armed soldiers.

Thabane gave conflicting accounts of the situation, telling journalists earlier yesterday he would “not go back to Lesotho to get killed”, and telling SABC later that he came to South Africa because he needed a break and would return home today.

He also claimed to be still in charge of security.

Sports minister Thesele Maseribane told AFP: “The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police.

“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.”

However, army spokesperson Major Ntlele Ntoi denied there was a coup.

“There is nothing like that, the situation has returned to normalcy?...?The military have returned to their barracks.”

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