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Vol 39 No 19

Published 25th September 1998


Lesotho

Militants and monarchs

Two troubled kingdoms have embroiled South Africa in some messy power-broking

Pretoria’s African National Congress government finally lost its diplomatic virginity with the deployment of 600 South African soldiers in the early hours of 22 September to put down a mutiny in Lesotho. This was the first foreign deployment of South African military muscle since the demise of the last National Party government in May 1994. Under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Pretoria’s troops moved quickly to secure two military bases near the capital, Maseru, and the major dam in Lesotho’s Highlands water complex, which supplies most of the industries in the Johannesburg area. Some 200 troops from Botswana joined the South African contingent later in the day but the operation quickly descended into chaos as marauding bands of mutinous Lesotho soliders looted Maseru and set fire to government offices. At least 20 people died in the first day of fighting.

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