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SA calls meeting with SADC to discuss Lesotho crisis

Pretoria warned it won’t tolerate an unconstitutional change of government in Lesotho.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesman Clayson Monyela won’t confirm reports that Lesotho Premier Thomas Thabane has fled to South Africa. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PRETORIA - As current chairman of the Regional Committee on Peace and Security, South Africa's calling a meeting of the South African Development Community (SADC) organ to discuss the crisis in Lesotho.

The official view is that what's happened in the mountain kingdom this morning has all the hallmarks of a coup.

Pretoria has warned that the region and the continent won't tolerate an unconstitutional change of government.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesman Clayson Monyela won't confirm reports that Lesotho Premier Thomas Thabane has fled to South Africa.

Neither will he commit South Africa to taking military action in the kingdom it surrounds as it did to restore constitutionality in 1998.

He notes that no-one is claiming to control Lesotho.

He says the Lesotho military which seized control of police headquarters and a number of stations must return to barracks immediately.

MILITARY COUPS IN MASERU

Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups. In 1998 at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.

A shaky coalition formed after the 2014 elections struggles to work together and accuses Thabane of authoritarianism.

Earlier on Saturday Thabane told the BBC he had fled to neighbouring South Africa. "I will return as soon as my life is not in danger," he said. His precise location was not immediately known.

Thabane said he would meet South African leaders, representing the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) later on Saturday to discuss the crisis in Lesotho, which followed tensions between rival factions of the two-year-old governing coalition.

Residents and diplomats said that heavily-armed soldiers had surrounded State House and also occupied the main headquarters of the police force, which is loyal to Prime Minister Thabane.

The diplomats said that the army was mostly loyal to Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane, who in June suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.

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