Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been urgently sent to Lesotho to consult with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili following fears of more political instability in the country.
The decision was taken by President Jacob Zuma, who is the chairperson of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security co-operation, the Southern Development Community said in a statement yesterday.
Ramaphosa is the Sadc facilitator on Lesotho.
The decision to deploy him was taken after three opposition party leaders fled the country and the killing of former Lesotho Defence Force commander Brigadier Maarparankoe Mahao, Sadc said.
Mahao was allegedly shot dead by soldiers in his home on the outskirts of Maseru on Thursday.
President Zuma, in his capacity as chairperson of the organ on security, sent a ministerial organ fact finding mission to Lesotho from Friday, June 26 to Monday, June 29, to assess the latest political and security developments in the country.
“After receiving the report of the fact finding mission, President Zuma has become more concerned about the apparent explosive security situation in Lesotho,” Sadc said.
This informed his decision to urgently send Ramaphosa to Lesotho.
“Further, President Zuma is sending a special envoy to the chair of Sadc, HE Robert Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe to share his deep concerns about the security situation in Lesotho as contained in the ministerial fact finding mission.”
He condemned the killing of Mahao, which he said was an unfortunate and tragic incident which undermined Lesotho’s efforts towards a peaceful transition following elections in February.
He sent his condolences to the Mahao family, King Lestsie III, the government and the people of Lesotho.
Brigadier Mahao, who was aligned with former prime minister Tom Thabane, was reportedly shot by a group of soldiers.
Lesotho is entirely surrounded by South Africa and is seen as strategically important as it provides 90 percent of the water supply to the city of Johannesburg.
The incident comes two months after Thabane — now head of the opposition – fled Lesotho, claiming he was the target of an assassination plot.
Last August, Thabane fired then army chief Tlali Kamoli, replacing him with Mahao.
The next day soldiers attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.
Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt, though both his political opponents and the military denied any bid to seize power.
Sadc instructed both Mahao and Kamoli to leave the country in the run-up to a snap election in February, which brought a new coalition government to power headed by Thabane’s predecessor, Pakalitha Mosisili.
Kamoli was reinstated as army chief after the election.
The United States issued a statement saying Mahao’s killing “highlights the urgent need for security sector reform”.
“We encourage the government to move forward quickly and robustly in transforming the defence force,” it said. — News24/AFP.