Lesotho's ruling ABC party wants PM to step down, names successor

Clay Curtis
February 27, 2020

His office later said that he had rushed to South Africa for medical treatment, insisting that he was not trying to avoid the charges against him.

Charges had been expected to be formally read out to him for allegedly acting in "common purpose" in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

Lesotho's ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party wants Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to step down immediately, with chairman Samuel Rapapa ready to take over, the party spokesman said on Monday.

The Prime Minister was a no-show for a court date last Friday.

The premier has faced pressure to resign by senior party officials. However analysts believe that rivals for the top post will contest Rapapa's appointment, possibly fracturing the party.

His present wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who married Thabane two months after Lipolelo was shot dead, has already been charged with ordering the killing and is free on bail.

The case was brought back into the spotlight in January after a letter from Lesotho's police chief emerged claiming communication records showed that someone at the murder scene had called Thabane's mobile phone on the day of the crime.

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Thabane was seated in the public gallery as his lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, argued that the murder charge against a sitting prime minister raised a constitutional issue that needed to be resolved before charges could be read against his client.

In Monday's hearing, defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika said: "My client can not be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law". Thabane, wearing a blue striped suit and a powder blue shirt, looked tense.

During the hearing, the lawyer asked whether a sitting prime minister should be subject to criminal prosecution as this could mean that he may be held in custody.

But the prime minister travelled instead to neighbouring South Africa for health reasons, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

On Saturday police said Thabane's sick note said that the premier would be "unfit" until February 27.

The murder case has caused turmoil in the tiny state of two million people encircled by South Africa.

Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was shot several times at close range as she sat in a vehicle near her home, two days before husband's inauguration in 2017.

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