Lesotho: Ruling party deals blow to embattled premier

Monitoring Desk

JOHANNESBURG: Lesotho’s ruling party opposes Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wish for immunity from prosecution for the murder of his ex-wife, local media reported on Tuesday.

Thabane, 80, has been under pressure to step down over accusations of involvement in the June 2017 murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane.

He has resisted the calls to leave the office and recently demanded immunity from prosecution as a precondition for relinquishing power.

However, the national executive committee (NEC) of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which Thabane heads, does not support his demand for immunity, according to local news outlet Lesotho Times.

“ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa told the Lesotho Times that the NEC discussed the matter last week and resolved not to support Mr. Thabane’s demands,” read the report.

Masoetsa said agreeing to Thabane’s demands would set a dangerous precedent.

In April, Lesotho’s Senate stepped up pressure on the embattled premier to quit office as it limited his power to dissolve Parliament and order new elections.

Earlier in the month, Thabane faced mounting criticism for deploying soldiers to reportedly restore calm after accusing unnamed law enforcement officials of seeking to undermine democracy.

A day before the deployment, the Constitutional Court ruled against his decision to suspend Parliament.

Thabane has promised to resign in July due to old age, but his opponents – including those within his own party – want him to resign immediately.

South Africa, which completely surrounds the tiny kingdom, dispatched envoys in April to resolve the political impasse between the prime minister and his rivals.

It was agreed that Thabane should resign and will be granted a dignified exit.

Earlier this year, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, the prime minister’s current wife, was formally charged with Lipolelo Thabane’s murder. Thabane and Lipolelo separated in 2012 and their divorce proceedings were ongoing when she was killed.

She was shot dead near her home in the capital Maseru in June 2017, just two days before Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister. (AA)