South Africa has rejected as false an SABC news report which claimed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana Mashabane had said the army and police would soon be deployed in Lesotho to keep the peace until a new government is elected.
The story was on SABC’s Morning Live programme on Friday. The report sparked widespread debate among Basotho as it came during a week of high drama in which Lesotho was threatened with suspension from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for government’s refusal to accept the Justice Phumaphi report into the killing of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao in June last year. President Jacob Zuma announced the suspension on SABC on Tuesday morning, explaining the sanction had been agreed upon by the SADC Double Troika which had met in Gaborone, Botswana on Monday.
However, it later emerged the suspension was no longer an issue after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili agreed to receive the report, study and publish it within the 14 days prescribed during Monday’s Double Troika summit. The summit was attended by Botswana president Ian Khama (SADC chair), SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation chairperson, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, Mr Zuma, Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Tanzania Prime Minister Majaliwa Majaliwa, and Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi. Botswana judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, who led a 10-member investigation into Lieutenant-General Mahao’s fatal shooting by his colleagues just outside Maseru allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny, as well as SADC Facilitator in the Lesotho security and political crisis, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, also attended the summit.
But on Friday, an SABC reporter noted: “Lesotho has been given until August to make good on its constitutional reforms in the security and public sector.
“SADC is annoyed that the Mountain Kingdom has failed to implement reforms in the security and public sector that are contained in a 2015 roadmap meant to pave the way for elections later this year.
“This week, SADC held a high-level summit where South Africa urged Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his government to prepare another roadmap.
“The roadmap was meant to oversee the urgent implementation of the security and political reforms as contained in the SADC Facilitator’s final report. But the roadmap is being complicated by a court challenge lodged by a senior Lesotho Defence Force officer.”
Minister Mashabane was then featured in the bulletin, explaining what transpired in Botswana.
“The Double Troika noted with concern that the Kingdom of Lesotho has not undertaken the constitutional, public sector and security reforms. The Double Troika summit urged the Kingdom of Lesotho to prepare, with the help of the Organ Troika Secretariat a roadmap for the implementation of the reforms,” the minister said.
The reporter then continued: “SADC has also called on Mosisili’s administration to allow for the safe return of all exiled opposition leaders and members of the security forces.
“In the interim, South African police officers and soldiers will maintain a presence in the tiny Kingdom until a new government is elected.”
However, South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete, on Friday told the Sunday Express that the report was inaccurate.
“There is nothing like that; there is no way that the minister can say South Africa will launch security intervention in Lesotho,” Mr Kgwete said.
“The minister said SADC had been requested by the government of Lesotho to assist in constitutional and security reforms. She said from our side, we will be sending security experts to assist in that task.
“What you are referring to was an interpretation of the journalist not what the minister said.”