Lesotho: Police Absent, Courts Close as Lesotho Crisis Talks Continue

What's at stake for South Africa as the Basotho struggle to overcome their political differences - water from the Maluti Mountains for South Africa's industrial heartland.
1 September 2014

Talks between Lesotho's coalition partners on the future of the nation's government were continuing in Pretoria on Monday, the country's news services reported.

Public Eye Online quoted  the Communications and Science and Technology Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, as saying the leaders of the three parties in the coalition were meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, who heads the security arm of the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In Maseru, Lesotho's courts were closed and police absent from work on Monday. The country's official news agency reported a local political analyst as saying the country had "no government".

Foreign minister Mohlabi Tsekoa told Agence France-Presse that in the absence of the prime minister and his deputy in Pretoria, King Letsie III would appoint another Cabinet minister to run the country.

The Basotho leaders reported to be at the Pretoria talks are Prime Minister Tom Thabane, of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Thesele Maseribane, the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP).

Although Thabane's ABC is the biggest party in the governing coalition, the Democratic Congress of the last prime minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, has the most seats in Parliament. Following two years of infighting among coalition members - with the smaller members accusing Thabane of acting without consultation - Metsing's LDC now wants to form a new coalition
with Mosisili.

Thabane has blocked the vote of no confidence which could precipitate this by having Parliament prorogued (suspended). Mochoboroane, a member of the LCD, told Public Eye that "the most important point in these talks is the opening of parliament..."

The official Lesotho News Agency quoted a political analyst, Professor Kopano Makoa, as saying the country had no government. In a separate report, it said Basotho were calling for new elections. LENA and the Lesotho Times also reported that the judiciary had suspended operations.

Court registrar Lesitsi Mokeke told the Times that the acting chief justice, Tšeliso Monaphathi, "has been advised by the police that according to the prevailing situation in the country, judges should not report for work as their security would be compromised...

"The police advised judges to stay at home, including the court staff, because the records are kept by the staff. However, the police said they would advise us when to re-open the courts, as they are now assessing the situation.

"I have, accordingly, advised for the suspension of the functions of the magistrate’s courts, until the police tell us the security situation has improved."

The Times said that on Monday, "although Basotho are currently going about their normal business, the situation remains tense, particularly without the comforting presence of the police on the streets."

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