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Updated May 1, 2020
(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 28, 2018, Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. The head of Lesotho's ruling party on April 29, 2020, has rejected Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's demands for immunity from prosecution in a murder case that has gripped the southern African mountain kingdom. In power since 2017, the octogenarian leader faces mounting calls to leave office from rivals within his ruling party and opposition groups over allegations he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife three years ago.  Angela Weiss / AFP
Lesotho prime minister Thomas Thabane, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2018.

 

Thomas Thabane, prime minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, is facing ever more pressure from within his own party to resign because of his alleged involvement in the murder of his second wife, Lipolelo Thabane. They were separated when she was shot dead at close range in 2017, two days before her husband was inaugurated for his second term as prime minister. Thabane married his third wife, Maesaiah, two months later.

 

Police said the prime minister would also be charged with murder.

 

In early February this year, Maesaiah Thabane was charged with masterminding the murder of Lipolelo and was released on bail. The prime minister was questioned and police said he would also be charged with murder. He announced he would retire in July, and ignored an ultimatum by his party, the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), to resign.

On Wednesday, April 29, the ABC rejected an attempt by Thabane to invoke immunity from prosecution. Both the ABC and the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) have called for him to step down.

The Lesotho senate has also amended the constitution to remove the prime minister’s power to dissolve parliament or call new elections. In March, Thabane attempted to suspend parliament for three months, allegedly over concerns about COVID-19, a move that was shut down by the country’s constitutional court. It seems only a matter of time until a vote of no-confidence forces Thabane to step down as prime minister.

 

An Act of Desperation

Until then, Thabane’s desire to stay in power risks plunging the small country into a major crisis. On Saturday, April 25, Thabane deployed armed soldiers with riot gear in the capital Maseru against what he called “rogue national elements” that wanted to destabilize the country, only to withdraw them hours later. Police officials and political analysts see it as nothing more than an intimidation tactic born out of desperation.

In response, the next day South Africa sent a diplomatic delegation to facilitate talks to help defuse the political tension.

 

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