Lesotho again: SADC must take decisive action

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It never rains but pours in Lesotho.  We say this as political events in that country once again threaten to boil over following the case of the murder of Lipolelo Thabane, the wife of Lesotho’s prime minister, Thomas Thabane, which has implicated the premier who is now under pressure to resign from office.

Maesaiah Thabane was arrested and charged earlier this month for the murder of Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo, who was shot dead near her home in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, on June 14, 2017.

Maesaiah Thabane appeared in court last week and denied the charges. She is out on bail. The magistrate court set March 17 as the date for the start of the trial. Lesotho police claim Maesaiah Thabane hired assassins to kill Lipolelo and was not actually present at the shooting herself.

Thomas Thabane took office two days after the killing, then married Maesaiah two months later. Lipolelo had reportedly refused to grant her husband divorce after he started a relationship with Maesaiah. 

The case has stunned citizens of Lesotho, an independent kingdom of two million people lying in the middle of a South African mountain range, and could have political implications.  Thomas Thabane has offered to step down, but police want to press murder charges. The case has ripple effects across the entire SADC, moreso as Lesotho has continued being a “problem” child in the region whose political problems seemingly refuse to go away.

It certainly looks like Thabane’s domestic problems will have implications on the country’s politics. Already, SADC has been superintending over political problems in Lesotho for a long period and we believe the unfolding events in the kingdom will complicate matters even further.

Once again, assassinations seem to muddy the waters in Lesotho, especially when the regional bloc is in the middle of trying to find a lasting solutions to political problems in the country.

A few years ago, Lesotho was again at crossroads amid volatility and political uncertainty  after the assassination of yet another army commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo, by renegade soldiers, namely Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

The shooting came at a time the country was still to implement recommendations made by a Commission of Inquiry led by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa into the shooting in June 2015 of then Lesotho Defence Forces army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

The shooting led to fears of a coup and resulted in the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fleeing to South Africa to seek refuge.  It is quite telling that Brig Sechele and Col Hashati were also implicated in the shooting of Lt-Gen Mahao and this could point to the underlying problems in the mountain kingdom pitting the politicians and the armed forces.

And now yet another assassination – that of Thabane’s wife – is threatening to bring to country to tenterhooks.

We urge calm and a peaceful solution to the latest problem in solution, the one that does not poison the already tense political situation.

We call upon the SADC political leaders not to tire but continue to find a lasting solution in Lesotho.  The sooner political problems in Lesotho are solved, the better for the region which needs to attend to pressing issues such as drought mitigatory measures, climate change, ensuring the implementation of the SADC industrial strategy roadmap and developmental projects for the good of the entire region.

It must be recalled that Lesotho has been in perpetual conflict since attaining independence in the 1960s and this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

The starting point is for the political leadership in that country to implement the SADC decisions to the book, as was recommended by the Cyril Ramaphosa-led commission. 

We do not want to believe SADC has failed the people of Lesotho. Political problems in the mountain kingdom must therefore be nipped in the bud before they spiral out of control. The regional political leaders must therefore redouble their efforts in resolving problems in Lesotho and we believe it is time to move away from political rhetoric and flowery language.  There is a need to tackle the root causes of the problems that have been simmering for a long time in that country.

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