Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Lesotho: A new aspect of Pretoria's "Total Strategy"

By Linus C. Okere

The recent coup which removed Chief Lebua Jonathan from power in Lesotho may have brought the people into the streets in jubilation but the full implications are far-reaching for the explosive politics of Southern Africa.
The overthrow of Chief Lebua Jonathan's government in the Kingdom of Lesotho should be viewed with serious concern by the neighbouring states. The military take-over should be regarded as an added dimension in the regional aspect of the "Total Strategy" published in the 1977 Defence White Paper. In it military strategists called for the mobilization of political, economic, ideological and military resources so as to safeguard and advance the interests of the Republic. The document stressed the need "to maintain a solid military balance relative to neighbouring states in southern Africa.

In pursuance of this objective, the government adopted two tactics. Firstly, it promised to offer incentives to those neighbours willing to collaborate with it in reducing guerilla attacks. This tactic was well advanced in the plans to create a "constellation" of anti-Marxist governments controlled by South Africa" through a wide range of joint economic projects. The election of Prime Minister Mugabe in 1980 dealt a heavy blow to this dream. The ZANU victory also boosted the establishment of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) in April 1980, two weeks before Zimbabwe's independence.

As has happened in other parts of Africa where the army has taken over power, the people of Lesotho are celebrating with great excitement and jubilation. They may soon find out that the autocratic government of Chief Lebua Jonathan was better than a military government.

In making the case for economic liberation, the Lusaka declaration of the SADCC states pointed out clearly that South Africa's economic control "is not a natural phenomenon, nor is it simply the result of the free market economy. The nine states...were in varying degrees, deliberately incorporated by the metropolitan powers, colonial rulers and large corporations, into the colonial and sub- colonial structures centring in general on the Republic of South Africa. The development of national economies as ABIDJAN balanced units, let alone the welfare of the people of southern Africa, played no part in the economic integration strategy... In the case of Lesotho, this economic encroachment is severe, and explains why it is one of the "hostage" states.

Secondly, South Africa uses its domination of the regional economy to create economic problems for neighbours whose territories are used as operational bases by guerillas. The economic blockade imposed on Lesotho (and slightly lifted after official announcement of the coup) on 1 January, was designed to force the ousted prime minister to deny bases for ANC guerillas. The 1983 blockade also caused severe hardship and chaos.

In this case, Pretoria was also responding to the widening foreign policy of Chief Jonathan when he established relations with China and the Soviet Union. Pretoria does not forget the material and moral support which the Eastern bloc gives African freedom-fighters. The Catholic Church also responded, not on intelligent and practical grounds, but on the basis of the conflict between Marxism and religion.

A major part of this policy of coercion is reflected in the use of assassination squads, the slaughtering of women and children in "hot pursuits" of guerillas and the sabotaging of SADCC developmental projects. Forty-two people were murdered in December 1982, and in December 1985, nine people were killed, both in Lesotho by South African commandos. In November 1981, transport and fuel installations were destroyed in Blantyre, and in January 1983 in Maseru. In Zimbabwe,1982 saw the destruction of two-thirds of the air force's aircraft shortly after the government had bought thirteen new Sky Hawks.

As has happened in other parts of Africa where the army has taken over power, the people of Lesotho are celebrating with great excitement and jubilation. They may soon find out that the autocratic government of Chief Lebua Jonathan was better than a military government whose promised policy of rapprochement with racism will render its domestic and foreign policies subject to the dictates of the Pretoria regime.

There is no doubt about the fact that South Africa is the brain behind the coup, and this is the new aspect of the total strategy. While the policy of military incursions, assassinations, economic incentives, and destabilization and the use of armed bandits such as UNITA in Angola, MNR in Mozambique, and "dissidents" in Zimbabwe, will continue, the infiltration of the Lesotho army by the South African secret service shows how effective and ruthless the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is. General Justin Lekhanya, the leader of the coup, was reported to be among the delegation which went to South Africa to advise on how to cow the government of Chief Jonathan.

In the 1970s during the period of the Vorster regime, the secret service used economic concessions and bribery to back up the government's diplomatic offensive - "detente" and dialogue with African states. Although this scheme failed, Vorster paid a visit to some African countries. It therefore cannot be ruled out that the Lesotho para-military force has been promised better uniforms, military hardware, better pay, good hotel accommodation in South Africa and the conferements of the title "honorary whites", which enables the army to enjoy facilities normally reserved for whites.

The success of this method will encourage the secret service to direct Angola, attention to the national armies of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. This must not succeed. should Other sever frontline presidents diplomatic and other contacts with Lesotho until the army organises fair and free elections. The armed forces must always be reminded of the importance of economic liberation and South Africa's insincerity in terms of regional peace pacts. The Nkomati Accord had not reduced MNR activities in Mozambique, neither did earlier steps taken by Chief Jonathan in 1982 to reduce ANC presence lead to similar steps by South Africa in its support for the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA).

Regional states should improve their intelligence service and watch closely those army officers likely to fall for South Africa's inducements. It can be expected that the Organisation of African Unity will provide diplomatic support by re- fusing to recognize the Lesotho military regime. In fact, the report from Sweden that Lesotho would lose the direct annual aid of about $4.5m (£3m) if it moved too closely to Pretoria, should be encourag- ing to the frontline states.

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