Lesotho's deputy prime minister takes reins

Relations have been stormy between Thomas Thabane's party and Mothetjoa Metsing's group.

Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing. Picture: Facebook.

MASERU - Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has taken charge of the government after the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled the country accusing the army of staging a coup, a minister said on Sunday.

Thabane, who has been in a fractious coalition government with his political rival Metsing, left for neighbouring South Africa on Saturday after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Lesotho's capital, Maseru.

The army denied trying to force him out of power, saying it had moved against police officers suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the small southern African kingdom.

"Constitutionally, in the absence of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister takes the reins," Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Selibe Mochoboroane told Reuters.

"For now there hasn't been any arrangement, but it goes without saying the deputy prime minister will still oversee other issues that need to be taken care of until the prime minister returns."

Relations have been stormy between Thabane's All Basotho Convention party and Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) group, which formed a coalition with another party after elections in 2012.

Thabane dissolved parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote against him amid feuding among the ruling parties in the mountainous state of two million people, encircled by South Africa. Metsing later said he would to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

Diplomats in Maseru said the army was largely seen as loyal to the deputy prime minister, while the police force largely supported the prime minister.

SADC TO MEET TOMORROW

The international relations department says a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting is expected to be held within the next 24 hours to discuss the latest developments in the mountain kingdom.

Representatives from the organ of politics, defence and security will convene to explore a peaceful resolution following the unrest in the region.

Both the South African and US governments have condemned yesterday's coup attempt.

It is reported that armed military forces took over police stations as well as radio and tv stations in the capital of Maseru.

International relations says unconstitutional changes of governance will not be tolerated in the SADC region.

As chair of the safety and defence organ, South Africa will play a major role in the talks this week.

Video: SA won't tolerate Lesotho coup.