Lesotho Prime Minister Misses Court Date To Be Charged In Murder Of Estranged Wife

Lesotho Prime Minister Misses Court Date To Be Charged In Murder Of Estranged Wife

Lesotho Prime Minister
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to appear in court on Feb. 21 to face charges of murdering his estranged wife in 2017. In this Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, file photo Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to appear in court on Feb. 21 in connection with the killing of his first wife in 2017.

The 80-year-old leader, who was expected to be charged in the killing of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane, instead traveled to South Africa, according to the New York Times.

The prime minister’s son, Potlako Thabane, claims that his father went to South Africa to visit a doctor and “has not fled Lesotho“.

Thabane’s private secretary Thabo Thakalekoala said the prime minister was due to return to the country in the coming days, Yahoo reports.

The prime minister’s current wife, Maesiah Thabane, has already been charged with murder for her alleged involvement in the 2017 killing of Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife Lipolelo, according to AlJazeera. She has been released on bail pending the trial.

Lipolelo was shot and killed outside her home in Maseru in June 2017, two days before the prime minister’s inauguration. Lipolelo and Thomas Thabane were involved in bitter divorce proceedings at the time of her murder, BBC reported.

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In 2015, during her husband’s first term in office, Lipolelo won a court battle to continue to be recognized as Lesotho’s first lady, even though the prime minister wanted her spousal benefits offered to Maesiah, who had been living with him as if she was his wife.

New evidence emerged in January showing that the prime minister had communicated via his mobile phone with whoever was at the scene of the murder.

Pressure has been building on Thabane to leave office, with people in Lesotho protesting and holding marches, pushing for the prime minister to step down because the scandal had affected his credibility.

On Feb. 20, the prime minister told a local radio station that he plans to step down at the end of July. He made no mention of the case and instead said that his decision was due to old age.

Police had previously questioned Thomas Thabane about the murder but still proceeded to accuse Maesiah exclusively. Now that the prime minister has committed to leaving office at a set date amid mounting public and political pressure, he is also murder-accused.

Eight other people in Lesotho and South Africa have also been arrested in connection with the murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo.

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Thomas Thabane missing the court appearance on Feb. 21 is reminiscent of his current wife’s reaction to a warrant of arrest issued against her earlier this year.

In January, Maesiah Thabane fled Lesotho and crossed the border into South Africa when a warrant was issued against her.

She returned to the country in early February and handed herself over to the police, EWN reported.