SA commends Lesotho after crisis eases

2 July 2014

South Africa has commended the parties to the coalition government in Lesotho for agreeing to work together to resolve the political challenges facing the landlocked country.

Deputy International Relations Minister Luwellyn Landers, briefing journalists in Pretoria on Wednesday, said South Africa “remains hopeful that the coalition government will be able to overcome their current political challenges and continue to work together for the peace and stability of the country”.

The main political parties in Lesotho, who are in a fragile two-year-old coalition, reached an agreement last month after emergency talks mediated by the Christian Council of Lesotho.

Some coalition partners had been angered by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s perceived aloofness, accusing him of operating unilaterally without consulting other partners.

This prompted a junior coalition partner, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, to threaten to form a new governing alliance to oust Thabane. In response, the premier suspended parliament – with the blessing of the king – allowing him to dodge a vote of no confidence.

The crisis, and fears of a possible coup, were averted, however, and Thabane held national rally attended by all leaders of the coalition government in Maseru on 20 June.

“It is true there are problems, but those problems are being addressed and shall continue being dealt with until a resolution is found,” his spokesperson told news agency AFP after the rally.

SA ‘still concerned about abducted school girls’

Turning to Nigeria, Landers said South Africa remained concerned about the fate of the abducted school girls from Chibok and the continuing terrorist activities perpetrated by radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

“The South African Government reiterates its condemnation of all forms and manner of terrorism and from whichever quarter,” he said.

The new deputy minister said South Africa would continue to support the actions taken by the African Union (AU) in support of Nigeria and other countries where the actions of armed groupings affected the lives of innocent people and impeded development.

Concerns over media freedom in Egypt

Regarding to Egypt, Landers welcomed the decision of the 15-member council AU Peace and Security Council to restore Egypt’s status in the continental body. Egypt’s participation in the AU was suspended last July following the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the army in response to mass protests over his turbulent one year of rule.

Former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn into office in early June after his landslide victory in a presidential election held in late May.

Landers said South Africa stood ready to assist the government and people of Egypt as they sought to rebuild their country in accordance with the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

At the same time, he said, South Africa was deeply concern over the increased suppression of media freedom and freedom of expression, after an Egyptian court gave three Al-Jazeera journalists jail sentences ranging from seven to 10 years over charges of aiding the currently blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

“We will continue engaging with the authorities in that country through available diplomatic channels on this and other matters,” Landers said.

Concerns over media freedom in Egypt

Landers also noted with regret the latest developments regarding three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and subsequently found murdered, and the reactions from both Israel and Palestine.

He called on all parties involved to exercise restraint, including a halt to the collective punishment of Palestinians. “South Africa furthermore urges both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to cooperate and find an amicable solution.

“South Africa believes that this unfortunate event should not be used from whatever quarter to cast aspersions on the legitimate existence of the Unity Government in Palestine, whose advent has been wholly welcomed by the members of the international community.”