Business as usual in Lesotho - military

Maseru - Lesotho's military seized two police stations on Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The country's prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesperson said the soldiers were only securing the country.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom that is completely surrounded by South Africa since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Tom Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

"We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business," Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for SA's department of international relations and co-operations, said on Saturday.

He said actions by Lesotho's military bore the hallmarks of a coup d'etat, but added, "The situation in Lesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government ... so we are monitoring that ... our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means."

Thabane visiting daughter in SA

The military's actions forced the prime minister to go into hiding, said Monyela. However, the prime minister had earlier told BBC that he is in South Africa visiting his daughter and would return to Lesotho on Sunday. Calls to the prime minister's spokesperson and office were not answered.

Monyela said the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, will intervene and they are trying to bring all players to the table for talks at this time.

When asked if South Africa would send military, Monyela said that wasn't under consideration at this time.

"We prefer peaceful resolution to any crisis, particularly if it's a political crisis ... Such things become last resorts," he said.

'Business as usual'

Lesotho's defence forces spokesperson Ntlele Ntoi played down the events.

"As we speak now, the situation in Lesotho, in the capital, is back to normal. It's business as usual," he told The Associated Press.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he said. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

"The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks," Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. "We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property."

He said that the military did not know if the march will still take place Monday.

Ntoi said he had heard reports that radio stations had been down for a few hours. He said he could not say if they were down for technical problems or because of the military.


But Thabane told eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said.

Bernard Ntlhoaea, a guard at the US Embassy in Maseru, confirmed that gunfire was heard in the capital early on Saturday.

"The military has been moving around from 3 o'clock in the morning, occupying police stations in Maseru and moving around to other districts," said Ntlhoaea. He said the military was armed and he saw at least one armoured personnel carrier on the streets.

The landlocked country's first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Previous coups

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said "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".

Henderson 2014/08/30 07:20:56 PM
Must .we trust news24 or this lesotho thing was just a gupta sponsered scheme to milk my megabytes?
Amanda Matthews 2014/08/30 07:28:33 PM
So why has Thabane fled?? No smoke without fire.
Rocky Bell 2014/08/30 07:30:46 PM
******** Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces******* ???????? Intervention?????? Memories that small?? CancER wish to forget one of the most embarrassing situations hey ever encountered 1998: Bwhahabwhahahahaaaa Operation Boleas. The mighty SANDF (read MK) tries to quell a uprise and coup de tat and enters Lesotho with helicopter gunships, Ratel Armored vehicles, thousands of troops and other sophisticated armourment. WHAT HAPPENS?????? The Lesotho Defence Force give the SANDF a hiding and they flee back over the border with their tails between their legs !!!!!!!!!!! bwahhaahbwhahaha!!!!
Amanda Matthews 2014/08/30 07:51:35 PM
Lesotho PM Tom Thabane confirms coup, flees to SA in fear of his life. Agence-France Press. Jhb.
Teboho Mokotjomela 2014/08/30 08:01:39 PM
South Africa must annex Lesotho......
Anthony Rees 2014/08/30 08:11:49 PM
Does that mean those dodgy Gupta brothers get to keep their new Lesotho Diplomatic Passpirts they received a few weeks ago?
Paul Moulang 2014/08/30 08:44:22 PM
My Venter trailer has a bullet hole through the back panel - thanks to these hot-heads. Luckily, someone else was towing it at the time!
Ernest Ntahane 2014/08/30 08:46:12 PM
Ntate Molimo ke kopa o boleke Lesotho le Batho ba phelang teng. Amen
Clemens 2014/08/30 09:14:12 PM
Lesotho has a history of the army and the police flexing their muscle or choosing sides whenever there's political instability to support or intimidate or eliminate politicians and the party in charge ie 1994 Selometsi Baholo and army infighting and in 1997 army shooting at the police for a day or two over the weekend, business as usual on Monday, and the keep army leaders taking the oppositions side in 1998 resultng in Boleas. However, there have only been three successful coups; one in 1970 that put Leabua Jonathan in charge as a dictator from 1970-1986; in 1986 by the army led Gen. Metsing Lekhanya to kick Leabua out resulting in military rule until 1991 when Lekhanya was kicked by another coup in 1991 led by Gen. Ramaema followed by elections in 1993, the first since Leabua's coup in 1970. Ever since there has been a whole political squabbling, new parties being formed by sulking politicians and the army and police taking sides or intervening without actively wanting to be in charge.
Adaman Saddam 2014/08/30 09:33:20 PM
lesotho must b the 10th province of the RSA