Lesotho: more coups than Covid
But events taking place in Lesotho can have more than an indirect influence on life in SA
Less than a week after sending the Lesotho Defence Force onto the streets of Maseru "to restore order", Tom Thabane, the mountain kingdom’s prime minister, is updating his CV.
Following intervention from SA negotiators, including former minister Jeff Radebe, Thabane was convinced to step down as prime minister.
Using the army was just one of Thabane’s ploys to hold on to power. While Lesotho has, at the time of writing, not a single confirmed case of Covid-19, he had also used the pandemic as a reason to suspend parliament — a move the country’s high court overturned for being "irrational".
Radebe said "the timeline is immediate" for Thabane to step down.
Already he must surely be feeling the cold as icy winds blow away the protections of office such as the immunity from prosecution claimed by his lawyers for his suspected involvement in the murder of his previous wife, Lipolelo, assassinated by gunmen as she sat in her car in June 2017.
His current wife, Maesaiah — who he married two months later — has also been charged with murder since coming out of hiding in February.
Lesotho is no stranger to political turmoil. It has had more coups than any other country in the Southern African Development Community — in 1970, 1986 and 1991.
In 1998, the SA National Defence Force — in the unfortunately named Operation Boleas (Spanish for "you polish") — rolled across the border to put down another threatened coup. It got a short, bloody lesson in street fighting when the column was stopped by Lesotho troops armed with Jeep-mounted recoilless guns at the entrance to the capital.
If the mountain kingdom’s political turmoil seems little more than an occasionally lurid but inconsequential drama, remember this: much of the water that flows from Gauteng’s taps comes, via the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, from dams built high in the Maluti mountains.