SADC piles pressure on Thabane

SADC piles pressure on Thabane

MASERU-DEPUTY Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki was in South Africa last night on a damage control mission after a diplomatic fallout triggered by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s statements last week.

Moleleki’s hastily organised trip to Pretoria comes amid revelations that South Africa was angered by Thabane’s recent statement that he had no intention of stepping down and that he will not allow anyone to dictate when he should retire.

Thabane made the statement in an interview with a local weekly a few days after he had told President Cyril Ramaphosa’s envoy that he will immediately step down.

The statement was seen as a subtle dig at Ramaphosa whose envoy Thabane had promised that he was going to step down soon.
The South African government viewed the statement as Thabane’s intention to backtrack on his promise.

Diplomatic sources say there was an immediate backlash from South Africa which now believes that Thabane was being insincere.
Moleleki’s trip was meant to reassure Ramaphosa that Thabane’s agreement with his envoy had not changed and he is still willing to step down as agreed.

The deputy prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi.
The meeting is said to have started at around 6pm last night.
Neither Makgothi nor Moleleki could be reached for a comment.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, said he was not aware of the meeting.

“We heard it as rumour but if it’s happening then it could have been organised with the embassy in South Africa. Therefore, I cannot confirm the meeting,” Moloto said.

SADC is pilling pressure on Thabane to leave sooner rather than later.
Sources say there is a feeling within SADC that July 31, the date by which Thabane has promised to retire is, too far. As such, there have been intense diplomatic manoeuvres to fast-track his exit.

South Africa’s former Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, who was Ramaphosa’s envoy to Lesotho last week, has been shuttling between SADC leaders to brief them about the situation in Lesotho.

After reporting back to Ramaphosa, Radebe was immediately dispatched to Zimbabwe to inform President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is the chairperson of SADC’s organ on politics, defence and security.

From Zimbabwe, Radebe flew to Botswana to meet President Mokgweetsi Masisi who is set to replace Mnangagwa as the organ’s chairperson.
Radebe told Masisi that he was hopeful that Thabane will step down in a few days.

“We are hopeful that in the next few days the process will be concluded to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to the new Prime Minister,” Radebe said.

He was referring to Thabane’s exit which days earlier he had said the Lesotho government had committed to making a “dignified” and “graceful” one.

But while Radebe was shuttling between SADC leaders Thabane was making a spectacular about-turn in Maseru.
He told the local newspaper that he will step down when he wants to.
“People who I don’t report to (are) setting the time for my departure, their own convenient time,” he said.
“They have no right to do so.”
That statement was in stark contrast to what he had told Radebe.
If anything, it seemed as if he was tacitly telling off both Ramaphosa and the SADC.
South Africa was not amused.
“There is a feeling from Pretoria that Thabane is playing hardball and is not sincere. South Africa has lost patience with both Thabane and Lesotho,” said a diplomatic source who has been informally briefed about the situation.
Meanwhile, the pressure on Thabane to step down is unrelenting.
thepost can reveal that Thabane met his party’s executive committee last week to discuss the modalities of his exit.
Sources say five members of the committee attended the meeting at which government was represented by two ministers. A diplomat was also in the meeting.
A source described the meeting as “very cordial”.
“There was an indication that we are getting to some consensus at last,” said the source.

“This was the first time that we felt that an agreement was within reach.”
The source said Thabane reiterated his commitment to step down but was haggling over immunity for himself and his wife.
The source said it is the demand for immunity that might delay Thabane’s exit because the parties are “still further apart”.

Montoeli Masoetsa, the ABC spokesperson, has already said the committee is hostile to granting Thabane immunity because that would open floodgates.

If he gets that then everyone will ask for the same and you end up undermining the rule of law,” Masoetsa told thepost last week.
Pressure is also mounting in parliament where the option of a vote of no confidence remains on the table.

On Tuesday the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that will clip Thabane’s powers to dissolve parliament when he loses a vote of no confidence.

The amendment gives Parliament power to appoint a Prime Minister without a fresh election. It is seen as a precursor to the motion to push Thabane out.

Staff Reporter

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