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SADC leaders to meet on Thabane’s future

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi

SOUTHERN African Development Community (SADC) leaders could meet before the end of the week to discuss the situation in Lesotho.

The meeting will discuss embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s fate and controversial deployment of troops in Maseru Saturday 18 April 2020.

The venue for the meeting has still not been decided with some sources saying it would be a virtual meeting through video teleconferencing because of lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by the SADC countries as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). It will not be the first SADC holds a virtual meeting. On 18 March 2020, SADC ministers held a meeting via video conference to deliberate on the implementation of the SADC regional integration programmes.

According to some sources, the planned meeting on Lesotho was communicated to the national executive committee (NEC) of Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) during their meeting with the South African High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

The sources said the ABC was called to the Tuesday meeting at the South African High Commission in Maseru after the party expressed its displeasure with the communique issued by that country’s special envoy, Jeff Radebe, at the end of his consultations in Maseru on Momaday 20 April 2020. The ABC complains the statement did not capture their demands for Mr Thabane to resign immediately.

The ABC’s deputy leader said the party had indicated in its meetings with Mr Radebe that it wanted Mr Thabane to step down without further delay. Prof Mahao said they were forging ahead with their deal with the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) and other parties to form a new government which would exclude Mr Thabane. (See story below).

In an interview with the Sunday Express yesterday, ABC chairperson Samuel Rapapa, confirmed that the party’s NEC met with the South African High Commissioner in Maseru on Tuesday and Wednesday. He however, refused to shed light on the meeting and whether or not they had been informed that SADC leaders would meet to discuss Mr Thabane’s fate and the political instability in Lesotho.

“We met with the South African High Commission but that is far as I am willing to tell you,” Mr Rapapa said.

“It was agreed that whatever discussed in those meetings should not be made public and I am not going to go against that decision.”

But according to the sources the ABC’s NEC was called to the South African High Commission after expressing its anger over the fact Mr Radebe’s communique did not categorically state that the ABC and other stakeholders wanted Dr Thabane to step down within days of their meeting with Mr Radebe.

“The ABC’s NEC was not happy that the communique captured the issue of Dr Thabane’s departure in a diplomatic manner. Like other stakeholders, they had impressed to the special envoy that they wanted Dr Thabane gone within days after the consultations.

“The South African High Commissioner (Mr Moloto) pleaded with the ABC’s NEC to calm down as the regional leaders would meet sometime this week to deliberate on Mr Thabane’s fate,” a source said.

Another source said the ABC’s NEC was also informed that President Ramaphosa had dispatched Mr Radebe to Zimbabwe and Botswana to brief presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mokgweetsi Masisi respectively on the political situation in Lesotho and the outcome of Mr Radebe’s recent visit to Lesotho. The source said the briefings were in preparation for the planned SADC meeting on Lesotho this week.

The source said the ABC’s NEC was happy that Mr Radebe had been dispatched to Botswana and Zimbabwe, adding that there was now a general feeling in the party that SADC would help them to expedite the processes leading up to Mr Thabane’s retirement.

Mr Mnangagwa is the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. Soon after meeting Mr Mnangagwa, Mr Radebe said he had fully briefed the Zimbabwean leader on the processes Basotho had agreed on to ensure that Mr Thabane’s retirement was implemented in a manner that allowed for a peaceful transition to a new leader.

Meanwhile, the Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka said he was not aware of the planned meeting as the government had not received any official communication about it.

“Lesotho is a SADC member and it is a standard practice for any country, even if it is on the agenda, to be invited for a meeting. We have not received any formal communication to that effect,” Mr Mphaka said yesterday.

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