Political parties condemn Lesotho coup

The ANC on Saturday called on the Lesotho Defence Force to return to barracks and allow the government to continue its functions.

“The African National Congress has noted with deep concern developments in the Kingdom of Lesotho where it is reported that the military has seized key buildings and installations in the country,” spokesman Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

“The ANC condemns any attempted seizure of power through unconstitutional means.”

Kodwa said the party was hopeful that the Lesotho Defence Force would return to barracks and allow the work of civil rule and the democratic government to continue unabated.

Also on Saturday, the DA said an urgent meeting must be held by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to find a solution to an alleged military coup.

“SADC needs to intervene, through diplomatic channels, so as to ensure that democratic ideals are upheld and peace and stability are restored,” Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

“Today’s events come after heightened political tensions in June this year, which led to the country’s parliament being suspended, as a result of a breakdown of the coalition government.”

He said South Africa had a duty to take the lead in resolving the conflict.

Agence France-Presse reported that Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane confirmed on Saturday that the military had seized power in a coup and that he had fled to SA in fear of his life.

“I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal,” Thabane told the BBC.

“I came into South Africa this morning and I will return as soon as my life is not in danger,” he said.

“I will not go back to Lesotho to get killed.”

Lesotho’s military seized control of police headquarters and the premier’s residence in the capital Maseru in the early hours of Saturday, but later withdrew, a government minister told AFP.

“The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police,” said sports minister and leader of the Basotho National Party, Thesele Maseribane.

“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.

Lesotho’s military however denied it had seized power, a spokesman told an SA television. Instead, the army’s operation was aimed only at disarming police which were preparing to provide arms to certain political parties in Lesotho, military spokesman Major Ntele Ntoi told the ANN7 news channel.

The SA government said it was not immediately sending troops to Lesotho. The department of international relations (Dirco) diplomacy should be given a chance and the situation should be resolved through peaceful means.

Kodwa called on leader of the African Union and Southern African Development Community to assist the country.

“The ANC calls upon the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to monitor the unfolding developments in Lesotho and continue to work with the people of that country to maintain law, order and democracy,” he said.

– Sapa