Lesotho Prime minister leaves Lesotho, avoids being charged with murdering wife

February 21, 2020
| Report Focus News
Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane looks on during the closing ceremony of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at The OR Tambo Building in Pretoria on August 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GULSHAN KHAN (Photo credit should read GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to appear in court on Friday in connection with the killing of his first wife, and his son said he had travelled to South Africa to see a doctor – but had not “fled the country”.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters at State House in Maseru, Lesotho, February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Thabane was due in court at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) over the death of Lipolelo Thabane, who was shot dead in June 2017 near her home in the capital Maseru two days before he took office.

But the 80-year-old leader did not appear.

Police said on Thursday that Thabane was to be charged with Lipolelo’s murder.

Thabane’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, has already been charged with ordering the killing but is currently out on bail.

“He has gone to South Africa to see a doctor,” Thabane’s son Potlako said by telephone, talking about his father.

“He’s not fled the country,” he added.

Thabane’s private secretary Thabo Thakalekoala said the prime minister would be back in Lesotho some time this weekend.

Lipolelo, then 58, and Thabane were going through an acrimonious divorce at the time of her death, when an unknown assailant shot her dead in her car.

Maesaiah and Thomas Thabane, who married two months after Lipolelo’s killing, have denied any involvement in her death.

The case has stunned the southern African kingdom, a mountainous state of 2 million people encircled by South Africa with a long history of political instability.

The prime minister told local radio on Thursday that he would step down at the end of July, but he did not mention the case and instead cited old age.

With no clear front-runner to succeed Thabane in his All Basotho Convention party and other politicians clamouring for the job, some analysts expect another general election.

“While Mr Thabane’s departure promises some progress in reforming the political quagmire of Lesotho politics and security issues, it also holds some danger,” said NKC Research political analyst Gary van Staden.

Lesotho has seen a number of military coups since independence from Britain in 1966. In 2014, Thabane fled Lesotho for South Africa after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Maseru.

Van Staden said that a military intervention was unlikely this time around but that a contested race to succeed Thabane could cause political instability.

Additional reporting by Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Ros Russell and Hugh Lawson