Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) — Lesotho has demanded the expulsion of two senior officers from a SADC police mission, accusing them of sabotaging the security of Prime Minister Tom Thabane and other top officials.
In a confidential letter to the Southern African Development Community and its lead negotiator Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, the government expressed “certain reservations” about a South African Lieutenant Colonel and Brigadier.
“Once we request that they be immediately released from their services, it’s effectively saying they are expected to be,” Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka told AFP Wednesday.
“I believe quick action will be taken,” he added.
The southern African bloc deployed more than 100 police to protect Thabane and other government officials following an attempted coup on August 30, which forced the prime minister to briefly flee to neighbouring South Africa.
“The handling of this issue could be a recipe for disaster,” Mphaka said. “This is not meant to harm the integrity of those officers, but to protect the integrity of the SADC observer-mission.”
Mphaka refused to give details of the specific allegations against the two officers, but another senior government official said the two commanders were accused of conspiring with Thabane’s rivals to “sabotage the mission.”
“SADC itself is doing an excellent job here, but we don’t want it to be frustrated by undue influences,” the official told AFP.
A third top-ranking official, Thesele Maseribane, a leader in the government’s tripartite coalition, told AFP he believes his movements are being leaked by SADC to elements of the Lesotho Defence Forces.
“The issue of security is an ongoing process,” he said.
SADC Head of Mission in Lesotho Fannie Phakola confirmed his office had received the letter, but declined to comment on how SADC would respond – or if the two commanders would be sent home.
Ronnie Mamoepa, a spokesman for Ramaphosa, also declined comment on the issue.
“Communication between the facilitator and the Government of Lesotho is confidential and cannot be conducted through the medium of the press,” he said.
One of the two accused South African commanders was spotted at SADC headquarters in Maseru on Wednesday morning, in uniform. But he refused comment and quickly drove off.
– ‘Leave of absence’ –
SADC has been battling to resolve a deadly dispute between Lesotho’s rival politicians and between their allies in the military and police.
Friday marks the end of the 21-day deadline for renegade general Tlali Kamoli to hand over full authority to his deputy and leave Lesotho for an indefinite “leave of absence.”
Kamoli is accused of leading the August 30 putsch, which saw the military attack several police installations and Thabane’s residence, killing one police officer.
But it remains unclear which country would take him in. Most African states have reportedly refused.
Last week, Maseribane also accused government adversaries of hiring foreign “mercenaries” and plotting to kill him and the prime minister.
Lesotho Assistant Police Commissioner Sello Mosili said his force is still investigating that claim.
“It’s our belief that they’re still planning these assassinations,” he said.