The difficult economic situation gave the opposition party the Congress Party the election victory in 1970. Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan now conducted a coup d’etat, dissolved the parliament and sent King Moshoeshoe II into exile. He could only be allowed to return if he abstained from any political activity.
Following the student revolt in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto in 1976, thousands of young South Africans sought asylum in Lesotho. When South Africa began to establish the so-called “bantustans”, Lesotho refused to recognize the phantom state of Transkei (see South Africa). This led the apartheid state to retaliate at the beginning of 1977 against the Lesotho border. Economic aggression created a very serious situation for the small country that issued dramatic calls for international solidarity.
Following Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, Lesotho joined the regional cooperation project launched by the so-called Frontline States and at the same time made contacts with Mozambique
According to Countryaah data, this triggered a new wave of reprisals on the part of South Africa, which began to give open support to groups opposed by the Jonathan government. This forced him to ask for support from the UN and the EU. At the same time, the Basotho National Party (GDP) was faced with increased opposition from the Congress Party under the leadership of Ntsu Mokhele.
Most armed clashes were caused by the South African military, which was interested in preventing the anti-apartheid opponents of the ANC from organizing in Maseru (see South Africa). In December 1982, South African soldiers executed a commando raid in the capital of Lesotho, killing 45 people, including 12 children. During the campaign, 3 ANC leaders were killed. The other killers were without political connections.
From 1982, the government introduced exemption legislation. The military and the police were strengthened while the Koeko paramilitary group began to fight against supporters of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) in the Drakensberg Mountains. The BCP abandoned its nationalist line from the 70s, was thrown into deep crisis and several of its leaders began to receive support from South Africa.
In March 1983, it came to a border meeting between Lesotho and South Africa, when some South African saboteurs tried to enter the kingdom to destroy its main electricity works. The Pretoria government increased the pressure to get Lesotho to sign a non-aggression agreement with South Africa, similar to the apartheid regime that had concluded with Swaziland and Mozambique. Jonathan was opposed to such an agreement, but the country’s economic dependence forced him to take a flexible stance.
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In late 1984, the South African government began to withhold products imported from Lesotho – especially weapons bought in Europe. According to thesciencetutor, at the same time, it delayed the remittances of the 400,000 Lesotho migrant workers in the Cape region. Finally, it delayed the plans for the construction of a hydroelectric plant on the river Sengu in the border area between the two countries. The pressure was aimed at increasing opposition to GDP. This was especially true of the right-wing BDA and the former left-wing BCP.