The Prime Minister of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili, is said to have thrown his weight behind Robert Mugabe. For a while I had started whining about the lack of a position on the part of the Lesotho government. Now, here it is. I’m sorry that it doesn’t please me. Mr Mosisili “told foreign powers on Wednesday to respect the sovereignty of states in the region.” I wonder whether foreign powers here refers to non-southern African states or to all states that are not Zimbabwe.
Ten years ago the government of Mr Mosisili was threatened by a domestic upheaval, and a coup d’etat was feared by most. The beleaguered Lesotho government called for help from SADC, and the then president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, authorised sending troops into Lesotho to calm things down, especially that the government of Lesotho was deemed legitimate then.
In March 1998 parliamentary elections in Lesotho resulted in an overwhelming majority for the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy Party, which won 79 out of 80 seats. However allegations of vote fraud soon surfaced, and after a failed lawsuit by the opposition parties, widespread rioting broke out.Under President Nelson Mandela the ANC-led government in South Africa (which completely landlocks Lesotho) announced it would hold a formal inquiry to determine the allegations of corruption. Controversially, the report only alleged minor irregularities.
Mandela authorised the deployment of 700 South African troops to Lesotho on September 22, 1998 to quell the rioting and maintain order. Botswana Defence Force soldiers were also deployed. The operation was described as an “intervention to restore democracy and the rule of law.”
Widespread arson, violence, and looting occurred despite the presence of SANDF soldiers. Troops were pulled out in May 1999 after seven months of occupation. The capital city of Maseru was heavily damaged, requiring a period of several years for rebuilding.
What is the difference between Lesotho then and Zimbabwe now? Robert Mugabe has terrorised and killed more people than the rebels in Lesotho had. Mr Mosisili’s government asked for help then, yet he now says the sovereignty of states in the region should be respected. What gives?