Prime Minister and leader of the governing All Basotho Convention (ABC) party Dr Thomas Thabane has warned that his government is in danger of collapse unless the warring factions within his party urgently resolve their differences, the media has heard.
Time is running out for the landlocked kingdom, with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) setting May 19 as the deadline for constitutional and security sector reforms to be discussed and implemented by a national dialogue forum.
But will SADC’s Lesotho Dialogue, under the guidance and leadership of South Africa, be able to save Lesotho from itself?
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is SADC’s chief facilitator for Lesotho. He appointed South Africa’s former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to lead the Lesotho dialogue. Mosoneke visited Lesotho last month after presiding over talks last year but his mandate expires in May.
There are several issues at the core of Lesotho’s ongoing political impasse.
One of them is the two national executive committees (NEC) competing for control of the ABC after the old NEC refused to cede power to the new committee which was elected during the party’s conference in the capital Maseru in early February.
As a result of the power struggle, both NECs are holding separate, competing rallies in different constituencies every week.
In addition to the NEC power struggle, three old NEC members have launched a legal challenge before the courts demanding that February’s party elections be annulled and fresh polls be held within three months of their February court challenge.
Another obstacle to Lesotho’s stability is the continued politicisation of the army and police, said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, senior research consultant at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.
“The current crisis, which prompted the SADC intervention, has its roots in an attempted military coup in 2014 and the assassination of former army general Maaparankoe Mahao the year after. Another high-profile assassination followed – of defence force chief Khoantle Motsomotso – in September 2017,” Louw-Vaudran explained in a recent ISS article.
“SADC sent an intervention force to help stabilise the situation and ensure the return of political exiles, but the 270-member SADC preventive mission in the Kingdom of Lesotho was withdrawn at the end of last year. This was despite calls by Thabane for the troops to stay,” she added.
Thabane has warned that if his coalition government collapses, ABC leaders and their coalition partners would be forced into exile once again, similar to their flight from the country in 2015 after alleged plots to assassinate them.
Should the ABC factions fail to resolve their differences and fresh elections become inevitable in lieu of collapse of the government, these would be the country’s fourth snap polls in about seven years, putting an enormous financial strain on Lesotho’s already bankrupt fiscus.
“Time is running out for Lesotho to put a new plan on the table that will prevent it from sliding back to political instability and violence. Progress is slow and the political class that has dragged the country down for several years is as divided as ever,” warned Louw-Vaudran.
But on the positive side SADC has extensive experience with Lesotho after first intervening militarily in 1998 and a number of times since. The organisation has also sent a firm message to Maseru that it won’t tolerate more delays in ending the current crisis.