LESOTHO’S coalition government partners were heavily criticised for being “selfish and not putting the country’s interests first” during the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting held in Pretoria this week.
Investigations by the Lesotho Times have revealed the feuding government leaders — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Senior Minister Thesele ‘Meseribane — came under fire for failing to resolve what SADC considered to be “minor” differences while the premier was also rebuked for blowing the country’s security situation out of proportion.
The Lesotho Times has learnt Dr Thabane’s explanation that he could not open Parliament on 19 September due to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s refusal to leave office despite being fired as Lesotho Defence Force commander on 29 August 2014, was dismissed out of hand during Monday’s meeting. The premier’s coup claims, the source further said, were not even considered during the meeting, hence the insistence that the coalition leaders should honour the agreements they signed before SADC, among them reopening Parliament on Friday, and preparing for early elections.
“Remember there was a fact-finding SADC mission in Lesotho soon after the army’s invasion of three police stations in Maseru on the morning of 30 August, which the prime minister has since said was a coup attempt.
“However, the SADC mission’s report tabled before Monday’s meeting chaired by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, in his capacity as chairman of the 15-member regional bloc, indicated that talk of a military coup was just a false alarm.
“The mission noted that following the military operation, there was relative calm in Maseru, with people going about their business, hence talk of instability due to the army’s presence on the streets was insincere,” the source said.
The source further said the mission’s report did not mention the attacks on the three police stations, but simply called it a military operation, while also being silent on radio stations which were taken off air for almost six hours on 30 August, the weapons allegedly seized by the army during the raid on the police stations and claims that LDF armories were emptied by Lt Gen Kamoli when he was fired.
“The SADC report did not also address the issue of the prime minister, ‘Maseribane and other government officials fleeing to South Africa in the wake of the attempted military coup. It again did not say anything about people who are still stuck in South Africa as refugees following the attack,” the source said.
The source further revealed the SADC mission also recommended that the corruption charges of former Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki and Mr Metsing, be dropped with immediate effect “because they are politically motivated”.
Meanwhile, another source privy to Monday’s meeting told the Lesotho Times that Mr Metsing was made to undertake not to back any move to remove Dr Thabane from power through a vote-of-no-confidence once Parliament reconvenes on 19 September.
“Mr Metsing was told that since it was obvious that his party was gearing for a no-confidence vote against Dr Thabane once parliament resumes, he should commit to only focus on the agenda agreed to by the meeting, which was to hold early elections before the original date of 2017,” the source said.
“This part did not go down well with Mr Metsing, who was in the company of his Political Advisor Mpho Malie.
“So this means although Mr Metsing might have had his wish of having Parliament reopened on 19 September, the fact that he won’t be able to support a no-confidence vote against Thabane’s premiership, means it was a hollow victory as that was his intention in the first place.
“The meeting was clear that a no-confidence vote in the prime minister would create problems, and SADC leaders said they were tired of Lesotho’s problems.
“Although Mr Metsing was not happy with all this, he did not have much choice in the matter. Arguing about it would have made him appear as though he was the troublemaker.”
In the same meeting, the source further said, SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax, made it clear that “the region cannot put up with any more chaos in Lesotho”.
“Ms Tax was adamant that Lesotho’s political leaders should stick to their commitments, such as the reopening of Parliament on 19 September because SADC cannot tolerate any more trouble in this country,” the source said.
On the question of Lt Gen Kamoli, the source said the meeting had urged that he be persuaded to step down without any force being applied.
“It was decided that he should be persuaded to leave without the application of force or any form of violence. There will be some SADC military commanders, coming to Lesotho to address Kamoli’s issue and negotiate his exit.
“On the question of Mahao, Thabane argued that he should not be put in the same bracket as Kamoli because their cases are different. Mahao will probably take over once Kamoli agrees to go, but as things stand, the LDF command remains under Kamoli.”