COVID19: SA faces Lesotho unrest

South Africa will engage in talks to restore calm in Lesotho on April 20 after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane sent soldiers and armoured vehicles onto the streets of Maresu on April 18 to restore order against “rogue national elements”.

The latest upheaval follows Thabane’s decision to suspend parliament without consultation over the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month’s move was challenged in the constitutional court by coalition partners and couple of dozens of rivals within his own party.

The judges ruled against Thabane’s decision on April 17, calling it “irrational”, paving the way for a vote of no-confidence against Thabane once parliament reconvenes.

A parliamentary caucus meeting scheduled on April 19 by the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) was postponed because of the visit by South African envoys, a senior Member of the Parliament said.

Internal divisions persist between Thabane loyalists and opponents. While no date has been set, Lesotho’s assembly is expected to meet as soon as this week.

“ABC is divided and we can no longer pretend,” said Lepota Sekola, adding that some members refused to honour Thabane’s call for the meeting as a show of dissatisfaction.

Lesotho supplies residents and farmers in South Africa’s Gauteng region with vital water supplies and Africa’s most developed country has helped broker peace talks in its smaller neighbour during previous bouts of political instability.

The South African envoys, who were urgently dispatched to help defuse weeks of political tension in the mountain kingdom of 2 million people, would continue talks for a second day on April 20, Thabane’s spokesman said.

Thabane, who is fighting for his political survival as he faces calls to quit and a possible criminal trial, said he had deployed the army in the capital to deal with forces he said wanted to destabilise Lesotho.

The Kingdom of Lesotho has lived thourgh a several coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966. In 1998 more than 50 people and eight South African soldiers died and parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and following fighting.

Thabane, 80, had been scheduled to address the people of Lesotho at 1530 GMT on April 19 Sunday, but this was postponed until Monday, his spokesman Relebohile Moyeye said.

“We are not sure when the statement will be tomorrow because the PM is meeting the (South African) envoy again tomorrow at 8am,” Moyeye added.

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