Southern African Development Community intervention in Lesotho

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SADC intervention in Lesotho
Date22 September 1998 – May 1999
(8 months)


 South Africa


Lesotho opposition

  • Pro-opposition faction of the LDF


 South Africa:

600 soldiers
2,000+ rebellious soldiers[2]
Casualties and losses

 South Africa:

11 killed, 17+ wounded[1][3]

The Southern African Development Community intervention in Lesotho, codenamed Operation Boleas, was a military invasion launched by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and led by South Africa through its South African National Defence Force into Lesotho to quell a coup d'état.


In May 1998, parliamentary elections in Lesotho resulted in an overwhelming majority for the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy Party, which won 79 out of 80 seats. However allegations of vote fraud soon surfaced, and after a failed lawsuit by the opposition parties, widespread rioting broke out.

Under President Nelson Mandela the ANC-led government in South Africa (which completely landlocks Lesotho) announced it would hold a formal inquiry to determine the allegations of corruption. Controversially, the report only alleged minor irregularities.


At the time of the intervention, both Mandela and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki were out of South Africa, with Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi serving as acting president.[4] Mandela approved[5] the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to Lesotho on 22 September 1998 to quell the rioting and maintain order. Botswana Defence Force soldiers were also deployed. The operation was described as an "intervention to restore democracy and the rule of law". The SANDF contingent included a squadron of Ratel-90 and Rooikat armoured fighting vehicles seconded from 1 Special Service Battalion.[6]

Widespread arson, violence, and looting occurred despite the presence of SANDF soldiers. The last South African troops were pulled out in May 1999 after seven months of occupation. The capital city of Maseru was heavily damaged, requiring a period of several years for rebuilding.


South Africa was accused in some quarters of using its military and diplomatic superiority as a regional hegemon to dominate and meddle in the internal affairs of its much smaller, weaker enclave in order to further its own strategic interests, in particular the water supply to its economic hub, Gauteng Province.[7] South Africa is the largest economic and military power in the SADC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "South Africa invades Lesotho - Green Left Weekly". 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ "SANDF's chaotic invasion". Mail & Guardian. 25 September 1998.
  3. ^ "'A fractious lot': Anatomy of (another) coup in Lesotho". Daily Maverick. South Africa. 3 July 2015.
  4. ^ David Beresford, "The flawed visionary of New Africa", The Guardian 9 Jan. 1999.
  5. ^ "Remembering the moment that SA soldiers marched into Lesotho - The Mail & Guardian". 19 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Customs, Traditions, History, and Insignia of the South African Armoured Corps" (PDF). Bloemfontein: South African Armour Association. 18 October 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  7. ^ Hadebe, Siyabonga (1 January 1970). "South African military intervention in Lesotho - A critical overview | Siyabonga Hadebe". Retrieved 19 January 2016.

External links[edit]