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Political tensions ran high as opposition tabled motion of no-confidence in govt, prompting security forces to threaten intervention.
Opposition 16 Oct submitted motion of no-confidence against PM Sam Matekane’s govt, with 61 MPs out of 120 in parliament pledging support for motion; vote deferred after Matekane resorted to court to challenge move. Police and army same day called on opposition not to go ahead with no-confidence motion, saying they would only work with current govt. Security forces 18 Oct briefly detained leader of opposition party Socialist Revolutionaries Teboho Mojapela. Matekane 26 Oct wrote to Southern African Development Community (SADC) arguing that opposition’s move aims to “subvert our democratic norms and principles” and could usher in period of “political uncertainty”. Opposition parties next day wrote to SADC highlighting threat of military coup, as well as harassment of Mojapela and other opposition figures. South African outlet News24 31 Oct reported that Matekane had gained support of opposition party Basotho Action Party, with their six seats returning parliamentary majority to his control and seemingly ending prospect of no-confidence vote.
PM Thabane resigned 19 May after parliament 11 May voted motion of no-confidence against him and demanded his resignation by 22 May. Former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro sworn in as new PM 20 May. Court of Appeal 29 May revoked Thabane’s wife Maesaiah’s bail and ordered her re-arrest on murder charges over 2017 killing of Thabane’s ex-wife.
Political crisis escalated as PM Thabane, facing mounting domestic and regional pressure to resign, briefly deployed military in capital Maseru. Constitutional Court 17 April reversed Thabane’s three-month suspension of parliament, which he imposed in March after main opposition party Democratic Congress filed parliamentary motion of no confidence against him over suspected involvement in murder of ex-wife. Thabane next day temporarily deployed military onto streets of Maseru. South Africa 19 April dispatched mediation delegation on behalf of regional bloc South African Development Community to help resolve crisis. In joint statement, govt, political parties and South African mediators 20 April announced immediate exit of Thabane, ensuring his “dignified, graceful and secure retirement”; few days later, Thabane reportedly rejected move, saying he would not be told when to leave office. After Parliament reconvened 20 April, Senate 28 April passed constitutional amendment curbing PM’s power to dissolve Parliament and call for new elections. Ruling party All Basotho Convention 29 April gave Thabane until 3 May to step down or face no-confidence vote. Thabane 21 April extended COVID-19 lockdown until 5 May.
Judicial proceedings over 2017 murder of PM Thabane’s estranged wife continued. Thabane 24 Feb appeared in court in capital Maseru to face murder charges; defence lawyer stated that Thabane “cannot be prosecuted while in office”; magistrate referred case to Constitutional Court to decide whether sitting PM can be charged with any crime. Thabane 20 Feb said he would resign by July. Trial of Thabane’s current wife Maesaiah set to start 17 March after prosecutors charged her with murder in Jan.
PM Thabane 14 Jan announced he would resign, without setting date, following recent allegations connecting him to 2017 murder of his former wife Lipolelo Thabane. Allegations became public after police commissioner implicated Thabane in legal documents following attempts by Thabane to suspend him from office. Police 10 Jan issued arrest warrant for Thabane’s current wife after she refused to meet authorities to answer questions over murder; her current whereabouts are unknown.
PM Thabane 6 April suspended parliament in apparent attempt to avoid vote of no confidence
After opposition parties suspended their involvement in security and constitutional reform process backed by regional bloc Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Sept, SADC sent facilitation team to attempt to revive process 8-9 and 15-16 Oct. Govt and opposition 16 Oct signed agreement to continue reforms.
PM Tom Thabane 11 Sept suspended Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara, accusing her of inciting violence and threatening Lesotho’s stability; move comes after Majara successfully petitioned courts to interdict Thabane from suspending her and setting up tribunal to investigate her. Under her leadership, courts found govt had acted unlawfully in removing constitutionally appointed head of appeal court and appointing Kananelo Mosito in his place. International panel of judges appointed to investigate. Opposition parties suspended their involvement in security and constitutional reform process backed by regional bloc Southern Africa Development Community, demanding Majara’s suspension be set aside.
Regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) 24 Jan briefed African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council on SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) launched 2 Dec and requested AU and its partners to help meet $1.6mn shortfall in funding for first six months.
Regional bloc Southern African Development Community formally launched its Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL) 2 Dec; force reportedly comprises 269 personnel from Angola, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Force deployed initially for six months to stabilise political and security situation following killing of army chief in Sept. Trial of five accused of this murder began 15 Dec.
Regional bloc Southern African Development Community early Nov reduced planned size of “contingency force” for Lesotho from 1,200 to 258 troops due to “budget constraints”; force intended to maintain stability following killing of army chief in Sept. After delays, force reportedly began deploying to Lesotho 25 Nov.
Former head of armed forces Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli arrested 11 Oct, charged 21 Oct with murder of police official during attempted coup in Aug 2014. Opposition Democratic Congress party mid-Oct filed motion of no confidence in PM Thabane’s govt and demanded that parliament be re-opened. Opposition leaders remained in exile. Southern African Development Community regional bloc prepared to deploy Contingent Force comprising military, intelligence and civilian components to support Lesotho govt.
Two senior army officers 5 Sept shot dead Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Khoantle Motsomotso at his offices outside Maseru and were shot dead by his bodyguards; Motsomotso had reportedly denied his killers’ request to halt police investigations into atrocities committed by LDF under former PM Mosisili. Southern African Development Community sent ministerial fact finding mission to investigate killing, 15 Sept approved deployment of Contingent Force to support Lesotho govt and late-Sept sent technical assessment team to assess security and force requirements.
Thomas Thabane, All Basotho Convention (ABC) party leader, won 3 June snap elections after March no confidence vote in former PM Mosisili, but failed to win outright majority, negotiated coalition with three other parties. Thabane sworn in as new PM 16 June. Six opposition parties 16 June called for international inquiry into alleged electoral fraud. Unidentified gunman shot dead Thabane’s estranged wife 14 June.
Parliament 1 March passed vote of no confidence in govt of PM Mosisili, prompting King Letsie III to dissolve parliament 7 March and call legislative elections. Voter registration closed 19 March for 3 June vote.
Instability ahead of 28 Feb elections, called two years early in attempt to restore stability following Aug 2014 coup attempt. Two of PM Thabane’s bodyguards shot and wounded outside presidential palace 1 Feb. Conflicting explanations for attack given by military and PM’s adviser, amid concerns over continued politicisation of security forces. Election reportedly peaceful, PM’s party took lead in early results.
PM Thabane accused army and deputy PM Metsing of coup attempt after reported gunfire, army seizure of key govt buildings and police HQ in Maseru 30 Aug; Thabane fled to S Africa; army spokesman 30 Aug denied coup. Rumours further fuelled by reported attempted assassination of Lt. Gen. Maaparankoe Mahao, recently appointed by Thabane. South African president Zuma 31 Aug invited Thabane, Metsing for talks with SADC ministers.
PM Pakalitha Mosisili emerged unhurt from assassination attempt by 16 armed men on PM’s residence in capital Maseru 22 Apr; 4 killed in ensuing gun battle. Authorities said 1 arrested in Lesotho, 7 in South Africa in attack described as possible coup attempt by mercenaries from neighbouring states.
Maseru government claimed uncovered opposition plot to kill ministers and businesspeople 18 Jan. Tension with opposition has continued since Feb 2007 snap elections.
3 Lesotho Defense Forces officers and 2 civilians charged with high treason in Magistrate’s Court 10 July following June political unrest in capital. Botswana President Ketumile Masire flew to Maseru with mandate from SADC to break stalemate over allocation of government seats.
Curfew imposed mid-month in Maseru after spate of attacks on cabinet ministers’ homes; lifted 22 June. Dispute between opposition and government over allocation of seats after February elections still unresolved.
Opposition parties staged parliamentary sit-in and 20,000 supporters gathered on Maseru streets 15 March, contesting results of February 2007 elections and legality of election deal between ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy and smaller NIP party. Opposition-led strike 18-19 March saw thousands stay away from work in Maseru. Government rejected calls to enter into dialogue with opposition, who vowed to continue active dissent.
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