(The following article was published Feb. 6 by international news agency AFP.)
Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) – Four Lesotho soldiers have been arrested in South Africa where they planned to kill two of the prime minister’s bodyguards recovering in hospital, Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo said Friday.
The bodyguards were wounded in a shootout in Lesotho’s capital Maseru on Sunday, allegedly because they foiled an August 30 army coup attempt by tipping off Prime Minister Tom Thabane and helping him escape across the South African border.
With tensions mounting ahead of elections on February 28, the wounded bodyguards — who are also soldiers — are wanted dead, Molapo told AFP.
“We believe the four arrested intended to finish off the soldiers who they didn’t kill on Sunday,” he said.
Molapo added that the two bodyguards had been moved from hospital in Bloemfontein to a “more secure” medical facility in South Africa.
As of late Friday, South African police had yet to confirm the claim. “For now, we have no information about the alleged arrest,” SAPS National Spokesman Gen. Solomon Makgale told AFP.
A Lesotho Defence Force spokesman earlier this week denied that the bodyguards had been targeted, saying they had fired first after ignoring an army checkpoint. The spokesman could not be reached Friday to comment on the latest charge against his soldiers.
Molapo said he would join a Thabane-led delegation to Pretoria on Friday, to discuss the tiny African kingdom’s “deteriorating security situation” and other election-related issues with South African President Jacob Zuma.
South Africa fully surrounds this mountain enclave and Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, leads the 15-nation Southern African Development Community mediation efforts in the Lesotho crisis.
As part of a peace plan, Ramaphosa arranged for elections to be brought forward by two years and exiled the renegade military commander who reportedly led the putsch on a “temporary leave of absence”.
“The insistence by Mr Ramaphosa that the security situation is fine and completely under control, has unfortunately proven to be the opposite,” said Molapo.
“It should be clear to everybody there are still issues that need to be dealt with.”
Lesotho provides some 90 percent of the water to South Africa’s commercial hub, Johannesburg, and most of its major businesses are South African-owned.
In 1998, post-election violence in Lesotho saw then-prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili invite in South African soldiers, which spurred greater bloodshed: some 50 civilians and eight SA soldiers were killed, with much of Maseru burned down.