Mugabe labours with Lesotho mediation

HARARE - SADC chairman President Robert Mugabe is struggling to resolve southern Africa’s most festering conflict that has seen a coup attempt aimed at overthrowing Lesotho Prime Minister, Tom Thabane.

Rival leaders of the mountainous kingdom’s coalition government met last week at the Department of Regional and International headquarters in South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria, about 50km north of Johannesburg, in the latest formal encounter mediated by Mugabe.

Despite extensive discussions with Thabane and his rival deputy Mothetjoa Metsing, that consumed much of last week, the breakthrough that was needed did not materialise.

Following stalled peace talks between deadlocked Lesotho political parties, time was running out, and Mugabe’s efforts to peacefully resolve the stand-off between the two rivals in the Lesotho coalition risks sending the mountainous kingdom back into civil war.

The coup attempt was precipitated by the dismissal of army chief lieutenant-general Kennedy Kamoli , hardly days after Thabane dissolved the Lesotho Parliament which was mulling passing a vote of no confidence in him.

As it is, the renegade army general who attempted to overthrow Thabane has refused to vacate his post, even though another army general has been installed.

Mugabe has dispatched the commanders of defence forces of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia to Lesotho to hold discussions with Lt Gen Kamoli to  accept the decision that he be relieved of his duties.

But Kamoli has refused to leave, leaving Lesotho with two army generals currently, one loyal to the prime minister and another to his deputy.

In a sign that Mugabe faces a mammoth task in healing the rift, Lesotho is now going for an early poll.

The country was due to go for polls in 2017.

South Africa’s minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said southern Africa nations wanted to resolve Lesotho’s crisis peacefully, and ruled out increasing calls to use force if Thabane continues to trash all agreements.

As Mugabe struggles to peacefully resolve the impasse in Lesotho, the country should now focus on “free, fair and incident-free democratic elections for a fresh mandate,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

This resolution was made after another round of Lesotho peace talks led by Mugabe at an emergency meeting of regional leaders last week, also attended by South Africa President Jacob Zuma and Botswana President Ian Khama, ended in failure.

Three times prior to last week’s meeting, Sadc in Windhoek, Victoria Falls, then finally in Pretoria, mandated parties to Lesotho’s coalition government to  read out a joint statement outlining the basic principles that should govern a settlement but the parties have refused.

While Sadc reportedly helped Thabane flee his home in Maseru on September 6 just before the army surrounded his residence and overran police stations in Maseru, he was reportedly whisked across the Lesotho border into Ladybrand in the Free State in SA, where he was put under South African government armed guard, according to South African press reports.

Thabane called the action an “attempted coup”, but Lesotho’s army rejected accusations that it had tried to overthrow Thabane.

Rather, the army said, it had put down an attempt by the police to give weapons to Thabane’s political loyalists.

The police are said to be loyal to Thabane while the army reportedly backs deputy prime minister Metsing.

Tensions have escalated since Thabane alleged that Metsing was attempting to overthrow him through unconstitutional means, causing the coalition government to unravel.

Thabane’s unilateral suspension of parliament in June amid feuding in the two-year-old governing coalition, and his refusal to reconvene the legislature has escalated tensions.

Under the auspices of Sadc, Mugabe had directed that Parliament reconvenes immediately, but Metsing says Thabane has refused and trashed all agreements.

Mesting’s loyalists have also warned that if Thabane persists with his plan to fire the army commander, “the atrocities and bloodbath that will befall this country will completely dwarf those of 1970,” according to his loyalist executive member Tlohang Sekhamane, referring to the coup which ended democracy four years after Lesotho’s independence.

The coalition, formed after none of Lesotho’s major political parties got a clear cut majority in the May 2012 elections, has been blighted by mistrust, lack of consultation and unilateralism.

The Lesotho problems echo the crisis that blighted Zimbabwe’s coalition, that ended with elections last July.

Endless rounds of talks led by Mugabe have failed to make headway on attempts to reconvene the Lesotho Parliament amid reports the re-opening will likely be immediately followed by Thabane’s impeachment, given that 72 out of 120 Lesotho Members of Parliament have signed a petition calling on Thabane to quit.

After talks led by Mugabe in Pretoria on Monday last week, Metsing agreed to shelve his plan to seek a vote of no confidence against Thabane, according to sources who attended last week’s meeting.

Zuma said as he opened the Sadc Troika meeting in Pretoria that he was keen together with Mugabe “to get (Lesotho) back to normalcy as soon as possible”.

Following the August 30 coup attempt, Mugabe and Zuma  met the delegation of the Lesotho coalition government consisting of Thabane, Metsing and  Morena Maseribane, a government minister on  September 1  in Pretoria in a meeting also attended by Sadc executive secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

The meeting reiterated the commitment contained in the “Windhoek Declaration” in which the leaders of the coalition government agreed to work together to restore political normalcy, stability, law and order, peace and security in Lesotho and agreed to expeditiously remove the Parliament prorogation.

 

Comments (9)

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 22 September 2014

There is virtually nothing in your story that tells us how Mugabe is labouring with the Lesotho issue. All you that you covered in your article are disagreements among the parties involved not the labouring of Mugabe. Anyway this does not surprise some of us becoz we know that you are more of an opposition then a news paper.

Ndugu - 22 September 2014

I totally agree with you, Ndugu.

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quick - 23 September 2014

After talks led by Mugabe in Pretoria on Monday last week, Metsing agreed to shelve his plan to seek a vote of no confidence against Thabane, according to sources who attended last week's meeting. Mr editor where is the labour here? i don`t see it

i don`t see it - 23 September 2014

Labouring or not labouring to solve the lesotho issue is beyond the point. How can Mugabe try to solve another country's problem when he is living in a worse one than that. When is he going to solve that one. Thabane has become unpopular in Lesotho - he should give way period - like he should.

clement moyo - 24 September 2014

Labouring or not labouring to solve the lesotho issue is beyond the point. How can Mugabe try to solve another country's problem when he is living in a worse one than that. When is he going to solve that one. Thabane has become unpopular in Lesotho - he should give way period - like he should.

clement moyo - 24 September 2014

Nhaimi, hakunawo here mabasawo ikoko?

jobless - 24 September 2014

titsvagireivo mabasa please tofa nenhamo

tozvireva - 24 September 2014

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