Lesotho government commits to a ‘secure retirement’ for PM

No immediate reaction by Thomas Thabane following release of statement on the back of South Africa-mediated talks.

Lesotho''s Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane arrives to address the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 28, 2018.
Following mounting calls for Thomas Thabane to step down as Lesotho's prime minister, local political actors agreed with South Africa's mediators on his resignation [File: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

Lesotho’s coalition government has agreed with South African mediators and other stakeholders to guarantee a “dignified, graceful and secure retirement” for embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, according to a joint statement.

Thabane has been facing mounting calls to step down from rivals within his ruling party and opposition groups over suspicions he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017 – a case that has gripped the tiny mountain kingdom that is surrounded by South Africa.

The statement on Monday came two days after Thabane sent soldiers backed by armoured vehicles onto the streets of the capital, Maseru, to “restore order” against “rogue national elements”, before withdrawing them on Sunday.

The turmoil prompted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to send a delegation of envoys to Lesotho to facilitate talks between the 80-year-old Thabane and his opponents. 

The statement issued after the talks said that the coalition government commits “to work with other stakeholders, particularly the members of Parliament” to guarantee a peaceful exit deal for Thabane.

There was no immediate comment by Thabane.

The prime minister, in power since 2017, had promised to retire by the end of July because of his age, but some members of his All Basotho Convention party and the opposition demand his immediate departure.

A day before Thabane ordered the deployment of security forces into the streets, the constitutional court had set aside his decision to suspend Parliament for three months.

The decision came shortly after the national assembly passed a bill barring Thabane from calling fresh elections if he loses a no-confidence vote hanging over his head.

Last month, he ordered the security forces and intelligence service to investigate his ruling party rivals, whom he accused of plotting to topple his government.

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Thabane faces allegations he acted in “common purpose” in the 2017 killing of his estranged wife, 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane, who he was in the process of divorcing. 

Lipolelo’s murder, two days before Thomas Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister, sent shock waves through the tiny picturesque mountainous kingdom of 2.2 million people.

His current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 43, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a coconspirator in the murder case and has already been charged. 

Both Thabane and his wife deny any involvement in the murder.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies