SOUTH AFRICA: A BENIGN OR MALIGN REGIONAL HEGEMON? THE CASE OF THE 1998 SOUTH AFRICAN-LED MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LESOTHO
AbstractIn 1998 South Africa and Botswana, under the auspices of SADC intervened militarily in the Kingdom of Lesotho. The military intervention triggered various responses. Some viewed the intervention as a benign response by the regional hegemony- South Africa to safe guard democracy in the region while others, especially opposition political parties in Lesotho felt it was an invasion by South Africa in its bid to project its dominant regional hegemony. This paper examines whether in launching the military intervention South Africa was motivated by its national hegemonic interests or by safeguarding democracy and a democratically elected government in Lesotho. The paper is part of a doctoral qualitative research project on the SADC preventive diplomacy in the Kingdom of Lesotho. The findings are part of the interview responses from participants at the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS), representatives of political parties and Civil Society Organisations in Lesotho, ex-soldiers from the Botswana Defence Force who participated in the Lesotho interventions, academics, and the post 2007 Lesotho Dialogue facilitator. The paper argues that while South Africa may have had benign motives for the intervention, the process was marred by legitimacy questions, the apartheid South African military history of regional destabilisation and lack of consistency in South African government conflict mediation policy. The legitimacy questions, coupled with lack of consistency in its interventions in regional conflicts gave birth to perceptions, right or wrong that South Africa was exerting her hegemonic might on mainly the weaker and geographically enveloped Lesotho.