A woman and her child pass armed personnel carriers at the entrance of the army barracks in Maseru, Lesotho. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - South Africa and other regional governments will facilitate the return of Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane to his country on Tuesday, restoring him to power after he was ousted in a coup on Saturday.

Although Thabane had earlier said he would not return to Maseru without a South African military escort out of fear for his life, officials in Pretoria would not say today whether this would happen.

Thabane’s decision to return followed a meeting he had with his two coalition partners on Monday, chaired by President Jacob Zuma, in which the Lesotho leaders agreed in effect to return the country to its position before Saturday’s coup.

However, it remains uncertain whether army coup leader Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli will accept Thabane’s return and the resumption of the status quo.

After he fled Lesotho on Saturday, one jump ahead of Kamoli’s soldiers, Thabane fired the general. Kamoli rejected his dismissal and still appears to be very much in charge of affairs in Lesotho.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is believed to have been behind the coup, took part in the meeting Zuma held with Thabane and he agreed to Thabane being restored to the prime ministership.

In a joint statement, the Basotho politicians recommitted themselves to “expeditiously implement” the Windhoek Declaration, which they signed in Namibia last month.

Essentially, that suggests Metsing agreed once again to rescind his earlier decision to leave Thabane’s coalition and form a new one with opposition leader Pakalitha Mosisili.

In exchange, Thabane had agreed in the declaration to again lift his suspension of parliament, which he had done in June to prevent Metsing and Mosisili passing a vote of no confidence in him and ousting his government.

The statement from yesterday’s meeting made clear that recalling parliament was the main aim of the agreement, and the leaders also agreed on a road map, with clear timelines, on how to do this. This road map would be submitted to Lesotho’s King Letsie III.

The leaders had also agreed to issue a joint statement appealing for calm and the exercise of restraint with a view to rapidly bring law and order back to Lesotho.

However, the statement did not explicitly state that Thabane would return to Lesotho. He had previously said he would do so only if South Africa agreed to his request for military protection, as he feared for his life otherwise.

Zuma called Monday’s meeting in his new capacity as chairman of security troika of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC has agreed to send a facilitator to Lesotho to work with the coalition government leaders as they implement the agreed road map. SADC agreed to deploy an observer team to Lesotho as a matter of urgency.

Independent Foreign Service