Lesotho's beleaguered PM Thabane officially resigns

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has resigned.
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has resigned.
Image: ARNOLD PRONTO

Lesotho's beleaguered prime minister Thomas Thabane resigned on Tuesday, ending a months-long crisis that engulfed the kingdom after he was accused of playing a role in the murder of his estranged wife.

The June 2017 killing sent shockwaves through the tiny landlocked southern African nation, plunging the country into political turmoil and prompting calls for the 80-year-old leader to step down.

Thabane and his then wife Lipolelo Thabane, 58, were in the midst of a bitter divorce when she was shot dead outside her home two days before her husband's inauguration.

Police said they found Thabane's mobile number in communications records from the crime scene.

The alleged evidence prompted rivals within and outside Thabane's party All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, to demand his immediate resignation.

On Tuesday he confirmed he was stepping down.

"I appear before you to announce that the work that you had assigned me may not be over but the time to retire from the great theatre of action, take leave from public life and office has finally arrived," he said in a national television address.

'Entrenching divisions' 

Thabane, whose elected term was due to end in 2022, earlier this year said he would leave office by July 31 because of his advanced age.

"When I made a voluntary announcement in January this year to retire from office, on or before the 31st of July 2020, I did so with all sincerity because of my full conviction and belief that to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heaven -- a time to be born and time to die," Thabane said Tuesday.

"But because of the deeply entrenched political polarisation in our society, some decided to use my announcement for political gain while others resigned themselves into further entrenching divisions among Basotho."

His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the opposition nominated Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro to be his successor after Thabane's coalition government was disbanded last week.

The country's supreme ruler King Letsie III, has also been advised to appoint Majoro at premier and he is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.

Thabane has vehemently denied any involvement his his ex-wife murder, and told AFP last he is not a killer.

"I don't kill people and I wouldn't kill my wife. No, no!" he said.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 43, whom he married two months after Lipolelo's death, is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

She has already been charged with murder and is out on bail.

While no premier has served out a full five-year term in Lesotho over the past decade, Thabane boasted in the interview with AFP that he has set an example to fellow African leaders who have a propensity to cling to power.

"I'm trying to set a precedent that leaders in Africa must volunteer to leave when they think it's time to leave or at the very worst they must leave when their term ends."

Thabane will remain the leader of his ruling ABC for the time being.

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