SOUTHERN African nations ordered the dispatch of an urgent ministerial delegation to Lesotho yesterday after the country’s army chief was assassinated.
Tuesday’s shooting of Lesotho Defence Force commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motsomotso raised fears of a fresh coup against Prime Minister Tom Thabane.
Mr Thabane and his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party were returned to power in the mountain kingdom in June elections, following talks brokered by neighbouring South Africa’s Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Gen Motsomotso was shot dead in the small hours of Tuesday morning at his residence at the Ratjomose barracks in the capital Maseru by Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
The two assassins were then shot by the general’s bodyguards.
Brig Sechele was killed and Col Hashatsi was left in a critical condition “that could possibly see him dead too,” according to sources.
Gen Motsomotso’s killing came two years after that of his predecessor Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao in an operation led by Tuesday’s assassins.
Regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joined South Africa yesterday in condemning Gen Motsomotso’s murder as an “indescribable and inexcusable barbaric and heinous act.”
SADC chair for defence and security co-operation Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the outgoing Angolan president, said: “This development is a serious blight and setback to the ongoing efforts to restore peace, security and stability to the kingdom of Lesotho.
“It is an unfortunate occurrence which threatens the prevailing peace and security of the SADC region as a whole.”
His statement said a ministerial fact-fi nding mission from SADC would arrive in Lesotho today and stay until Sunday.
On Tuesday, South African President Jacob Zuma condemned “in the strongest terms possible the senseless and regrettable killing,” which he warned was “creating a dangerous pattern” in Lesotho.
“This unfortunate incident happens so soon after the kingdom of Lesotho had conducted peaceful and democratic elections which SADC had thought were to bring political normalcy and stability in the country.”
Following the previous coup against Mr Thabane in 2015, the Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions warned of a civil war brewing between rival factions in the army, police force and prison service.