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The fuse is set on another African revolt

By John Ryan

Here, it hardly rated a paragraph in the Sunday heavies. But, back in Africa, last week's unilateral assumption of power by the ruling party in Lesotho was considerable news.

Lesotho is in many ways an undistinguished country. The Switzerland of Southern Africa, travel writers have termed her, but the phrase is much too glib. This is no Alpine wonderland; the surface beauty of the gnarled Maluti mountains masks a state of poverty that is among the most abject on earth.

Missionary persistence has given Lesotho the highest literacy rate on the African continent. But nature precludes her people from being able to exploit their education.

Lesotho has some diamonds, but never enough to bolster a viable economy; abundant water, but a dearth of arable land. Sixty thousand Basuto men are driven to South Africa every year to work on the mines and farms, and their earnings there constitute the country's main source of income.

Lesotho is an enclave of South Africa, and that fact is both her destiny and her special dilemma. For reasons of economy and geography, no Basuto government could ever afford to actively oppose the doctrines of White domination.

The crime of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, for which he must pay sometime in the near future, is that he has courted apartheid too long and too hard. In striving to be a good neighbor, to win extraordinary favours from the Afrikaner Nationalists, he has estranged himself from his own people.

Jonathan's action last week was taken in the face of defeat at the country's second general election. His party, in fact, lost the election but Jonathan promptly called the poll null and void and jailed most of the opposition leaders.

But one opponent, the man who appears fated to lead the revolution when it comes, the government dare not jail. He is young King Moshoeshoe II, a sophisticated Oxford man who is probably the most qualified politician-academically, anyway-in the country.

For four years now, King Moshoe shoe has been battling to improve his rubber-stamp status. Three years ago, he was committed to palace arrest by the Jonathan regime for inciting a revolt in which 13 Royalists were gunned down by the government's paramilitary police force.

Tribal roots still run deep in Lesotho and it was a surprise to most observers that the Basutos permitted this restriction on their monarch-a direct descendant of the nation's founder' Paramount Chief Moshoeshoe I. That they did was probably due to the fact that many thought he was too young then to be a potent force in polities.

However, Moshoeshoe is now 31 and the events of the past four years have matured him significantly. It can only be a matter of time, and the right opportunity, before his people rally around him to try to oust Jonathan.

Only a few hundred police stand against that event, for Lesotho is too poor to afford an army. The king, on the other hand, has a private cavalry-a formidable gang of red-blanketed horsemen-and many Basutos possess hunting rifles. Nor could the South African Government be prevailed upon to intervene for the Prime Minister. It dare not if it wanted to, for such interference in another country's affairs could set a dangerous precedent for South Africa herself.

And, indeed, there is evidence that the government of John Balthazar Vorster has become disillusioned by Jonathan's most recent behavior. Even white supremacists, it seems, see something repugnant in dictators.

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