President Zuma visits Lesotho on mediation mission

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma is in Lesotho for consultation with King Letsie III on ways to end the political crisis in the mountain kingdom.

This morning, President Zuma — who is also the Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security — is expected to hold discussions with the Coalition Leaders and to assess the progress in the implementation of the Windhoek Declaration, as well as other SADC decisions.

The visit follows the Ministerial Committee of the Organ meeting held on 31 August, as well as the President’s meeting with the Coalition Leaders on 1 September in Pretoria.

“The visit by President Zuma demonstrates a clear commitment by SADC to assist the Coalition Leaders to implement the Windhoek Declaration, as well as to assist the kingdom to restore peace and stability,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on Monday.

President Zuma is accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

The South African government has been trying to end the political stalemate in the neighbouring kingdom since August 30, when a military “coup” sent Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fleeing to South Africa.

But Thabane returned home last Monday following the intervention of SADC, with South Africa playing a leading role.

On August 30, the Lesotho military seized the police headquarters and the Mabote police station in Maseru, claiming that police officers intended to pass arms and ammunition to Thabane’s All Basotho Convention called “Under the Tree” (UTTA).

Police were reportedly loyal to Thabane, while the military supported his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing.

SADC intervened and brought leaders in the coalition government to an agreement, which allowed Thabane to return home to continue his duties, particularly to reopen parliament.

However, the prime minister has delayed the reopening of parliament to ascertain who is in charge of the country’s army.

Thabane suspended parliament in June in an attempt to avoid a vote of no confidence that was pushed by his coalition partners.

The suspension, along with the dismissal of army chief Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, was believed to be among the factors that triggered an attempted coup.

Thabane said he is adamant that his decision to fire Kamoli still stands.

He also accused his coalition partner, Metsing, of masterminding the coup, but Metsing has denied it.

The differences over the fate of Kamoli might impede the implementation of the Windhoek Declaration, which was presented at the recent SADC summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The declaration was designed to bring about a political solution to the Lesotho crisis