Lesotho's new military government pledged today that it would continue to accept black refugees from segregationist South Africa but said it would expel members of the underground African National Congress if it considered this to be in the interests of their safety and the country's national security.
Making his first public appearance since he seized power in southern Africa's first coup on Jan. 21, Maj. Gen. Metsing Lekhanya was noncommittal when questioned about his administration's relations with South Africa. It has been widely suggested that South Africa engineered the coup in the black enclave that it surrounds, and the general's responses cannot have done much to end such insinuations.
Lekhanya did not say whether he would be willing to sign a mutual nonaggression treaty with South Africa similar to one it has had with Mozambique since 1983 and that Pretoria has long been urging on Lesotho. He would say only that he would "seek common ground through negotiation."
The new military ruler said that he would not consider holding elections for a new civilian government until the political parties emerged from a "political quagmire" and began working for national unity. In the meantime, he said, all political activity would be banned.
However, Lekhanya also stressed that the aftermath of the coup would be calm. "We will not engage in any witch-hunting exercise or pursue any political vendettas against members of the previous government," he said, adding that deposed prime minister Leabua Jonathan and members of his cabinet, who were briefly under house arrest, are now free.
Lekhanya also said he would announce a general amnesty "in due course" for political exiles such as Ntsu Mokhehle, leader of the Basutoland Congress Party, who for the past four years sought to topple the Jonathan government.