President Jacob Zuma has condemned the killing of Lesotho's army commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motsomotso, the Department of International Relations and Co-oprtation said in a statement on Tuesday.
"On behalf of SADC, President Zuma condemns in the strongest terms possible the senseless and regrettable killing of Genenal Motsomotso, especially because his killing happens two years after the killing of former Lesotho Defence Force Commander, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015, thus creating a dangerous pattern in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
"This unfortunate incident happens so soon after the Kingdom of Lesotho had conducted peaceful and democratic elections which SADC had thought they were to bring political normalcy and stability in the country," said the statement.
Motsomotso was shot dead by rival officers at a military barracks on Tuesday, in an apparent assassination set to revive instability in the mountainous African kingdom.
"The commander (Motsomotso) has been declared dead," a military official who declined to be named was quoted as saying, adding that two senior officers behind the attack had also been killed in the shoot-out.
New coalition government
The military official said the two senior officers were denied access to Motsomotso's office by army guards.
"They attempted to forcefully enter, there was a shoot-out between the two, their companion who has since fled, and the commander's bodyguards," he said.
Meanwhile, President Zuma has called for absolute calm and restraint. He also extended "his deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, the government and the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho".
A new coalition government took office in Lesotho in June under Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who vowed to bring peace to the country that has been rocked by a series of political upheavals.
Thabane, 78, previously served as premier after the 2012 elections but was forced to flee to South Africa following an attempted military coup two years later.
In August 2014, soldiers led by sacked army chief General Tlali Kamoli seized control of police headquarters after Thabane had suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.
Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) party won snap elections on June 3 but failed to get an outright majority, leading it to negotiate joint rule with three other parties.