|19. June 2014
Parliament suspended amid fears of a coup
Emergency talks were underway on Thursday to determine the future of Lesotho’s fragile coalition government, amid suggestions of a possible coup and fears the country may be plunged back into political violence.
With the two-year-old coalition government teetering on the brink, the three major parties in the grouping held crisis talks in the capital Maseru mediated by the Christian Council of Lesotho.
Junior partner, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy has vowed to forge a new coalition, one that would oust Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In response the premier has temporarily suspended Parliament, with the blessing of the king, allowing him to dodge a vote of no confidence.
The stand-off has raised the political temperature and prompted a warning from South Africa, which surrounds the tiny mountain kingdom.
“The South African government notes with concern the unfolding political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho which has resulted in the prorogation of the country’s Parliament,” Pretoria said in a statement on Thursday. “The South African government has further noted with grave concern the unusual movements of the Lesotho Defence Force Units in the capital, Maseru.” South Africa said it “will not tolerate any unconstitutional change of government in the region and continent”.
An AFP reporter in Maseru said the situation on the streets was calm, with people going about their normal business.
Lesotho is no stranger to political crisis or intervention from its neighbours. In 1986 South Africa’s apartheid government instigated a coup in Lesotho to prevent the country being used as a base by the ANC and other activists. In 1998, following election riots, South Africa and Botswana embarked on an ill-fated invasion that reduced the capital to rubble.
In recent decades there have been a series of attempted political assassinations. But the last elections in 2012 passed off relatively peacefully, with three major parties forging a coalition.
(Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)