Lesotho Prime Minister Accused Of Murder To Be Ousted

Lesotho Prime Minister Accused Of Murder To Be Ousted

Lesotho Prime Minister
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who is accused of murder but is yet to be charged, appears close to being ousted from his position. 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

The soap opera-like murder accusation against 80-year-old Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appears set to end with his undignified removal from office.

Thabane, who has been implicated in his ex-wife’s murder, appeared in court in February but has not yet been charged with murder. The Lesotho constitutional court is deciding if he should have immunity from prosecution because of his office.

Opposition political parties may stand to gain the most from his removal from office, with many people within his own party, the All Basotho Convention, defecting to the opposition in support of his ouster, according to The Institute For Security Studies.

Thabane was given an ultimatum to resign by May 4 or be removed through a vote of no confidence, Bloomberg reports.

The Lesotho Senate has passed a bill that would stop Thabane from dissolving or suspending the parliament to save himself from being ousted.

According to Lesotho law, a prime minister who loses a no-confidence vote is forced to resign within three days of the vote.

On Feb. 20, following pressure from the public and within his own political party, Thabane announced plans to step down at the end of July. That pressure mounted when the prime minister and his current spouse were implicated in the murder of his first wife.

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

In 2015, during her husband’s first term in office, the courts decided to recognize Lipolelo as Lesotho’s first lady, even though the prime minister wanted her spousal benefits offered to Maesaiah, his current wife, who was then living with him as if she was his wife. 

Maesaiah — pronounced ma-ye-sa-ye — has been charged with the murder of Lipolelo.

New evidence emerged in January implicating the prime minister after phone records showed that he had communicated via his mobile phone with whoever was at the scene of the murder.

The prime minister’s political opponents and allies alike are skeptical that he will stick to his pledge to resign in July as he continues to cling to power. 

The leader suspended parliament in March when it was clear that an amendment bill was overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers to remove some of his powers as prime minister, according to the DailyMaverick.

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Thabane unilaterally suspended parliament until June 19, 2020, citing the requirement to stop large gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — which, as of May 4, was not yet confirmed to be present in Lesotho.

His critics accused him of suspending parliament to stop the bill’s progress but on April 17, the country’s constitutional court nullified the suspension and the constitutional amendment was approved, EWN reported.

The next step will be to send it the bill to Lesotho King Letsie III for his assent, after which a vote of no confidence in Thabane is expected to be successful.