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'Lesotho army are like loose cannons'

Lesotho officials hiding in SA say they will not return home until the situation is stablised.

An immigration sign at the Maseru Border gate in Lesotho. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Top Lesotho government officials stationed at a secret location in South Africa have described to Eyewitness News the horror of fleeing their homes and country amid political instability and infighting at the weekend.

More than 150 government officials are in hiding as Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and President Jacob Zuma continue to try and find a resolution to the political impasse.

Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has refused to return to the mountain kingdom, fearing for his life, until the situation is stabilised.

Soldiers from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have encircled the secret location where over 150 Lesotho government officials are in hiding following a coup attempt in their country.

Spokesperson for Lesotho's Prime Minister, Thabo Thakalekoala, has blamed the military's former commander for the country's political turmoil.

"The ex-commander of the Lesotho Defence Force refused to step down, the reason being that he is involved in many cases of corruption. So he feared that once he steps down the corruption cases will go on in court. That is the main reason that sparked the whole conflict in Lesotho."

Thakalekoala has confirmed that top police officers and the newly appointed military commander have fled the country.

Lesotho government officials have accused the country's deputy prime minister and former army commander of deliberately destabilising the country to avoid corruption charges being brought against them.

Top officials have accused the two of embezzling over R70 million of public funds.

Thakalekoala says officials being protected in South Africa will only return home once the situation is stable.

"These soldiers are just loose cannons right now. So far we have not had any cases where citizens were shot, but people should be very cautious."

Thakalekoala has also warned people travelling to the country to take extra caution because the situation is still tense.

He says although there haven't been cases of civilians being shot or harassed, people should ensure their own safety at all times.

Lesotho's Public Service Minister Motloheloa Phooko has indicated he is in charge in the country.

Meanwhile, Thakalekoala says, "The solutions to our problems in Lesotho will definitely come out from the meeting between the President Jacob Zuma and the Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane."

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