President Robert Mugabe and his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma, are combining efforts to try and reduce tensions in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho after a bloodless military coup on Saturday.
Mr. Mugabe is the newly-minted Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson and Mr. Zuma heads the SADC troika on Defense, Politics and Security that tackles regional instability.
Mr. Zuma was on Monday meeting Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to discuss the situation in the mountainous enclave, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.
A Lesotho government official said late Monday SADC has decided to send an observer mission and not regional coalition forces to quell the tensions.
Mr. Thabane says he fled to South Africa after an alleged attempt by the military to take over the country of about 2 million people.
There are reports that South African Special Forces helped him escape but officials in Pretoria told Studio 7 that they had no role in his escape.
However, Lesotho defense forces spokesman, Major Ntlele Ntoi denied there had been a coup, insisting the army’s actions were merely aimed at disarming policemen. He accused the police of plotting to arm youths from Mr. Thabane’s all Basotho Convention to enable them to disrupt a march planned by Mr. Metsing’s LCD party Monday.
Mr. Mugabe has dispatched Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramai and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi to Pretoria for meetings aimed to diffuse tensions in Lesotho.
The SADC Defence and Security Troika, which includes officials from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, met Mr. Thabane on Sunday.
Political temperatures have been rising between Mr. Thabane and Metsing and within the coalition government in the tiny kingdom since June when Mr. Thabane suspended parliament to allegedly dodge a vote of no confidence.
Spokesman of the South African Department of International Relations, Clayson Monyela, told VOA Studio 7 that Pretoria will not tolerate a coup but at the moment Mr. Zuma is pursuing dialogue.
ARMY DIGGING IN
National University of Lesotho political scientist, Tlohang Lestie, said the army seems to be digging in and the situation is anything but normal.
Executive director at the African Public Policy and Research Institute, Martin Rupiya said South Africa has boots on the ground.
Political analyst, Charles Mangongera, said SADC will not tolerate a coup, adding he’s confident the soldiers will return to the barracks soon.
Studio 7 also reached independent political analyst and member of the South Africa Communist Party, Zenzo Nkomo, who says the constitution of Lesotho needs to be over-hauled to find a lasting solution to the country’s history of political turmoil.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Thabane has asked for southern African peacekeepers to be sent to his country following an apparent coup attempt over the weekend.
An aide to Mr. Thabane said the prime minister made the request at emergency talks with SADC officials in Pretoria on Monday.
The aide, Samonyane Ntsekele, told reporters that an "intervention" is needed.
Mr. Thabane fled Lesotho on Saturday before the military surrounded his residence and that of a top police official, and disarmed two police stations in the capital Maseru.
The prime minister accused the army and Deputy Prime Minister Metsing of seeking to oust him from power.
The military accused elements of the police force of planning to arm political radicals ahead of an anti-government protest.
Deputy Prime Minister Metsing was present at the talks in Pretoria Monday, as SADC officials tried to broker a solution to the crisis. President Zuma of South Africa is set to meet with both Metsing and Mr. Thabane.
Lesotho, a small, mountainous country encircled by South Africa, has gone through several coups since it won independence from Britain in 1966.
The U.S. has called for a "peaceful dialogue" and respect for the democratic process in the kingdom, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for respect for the constitutional order.