Lesotho’s prime minister resigns after pressure over murder

Lesotho prime minister Thomas Thabane

MASERU, Lesotho (AP) — Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has resigned after losing a struggle with leaders of his party who wanted him out over allegations of his involvement in the 2017 murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo.

The 80-year-old Thabane had said he would go at the end of July, but rivals in his All Basotho Convention party reached a deal with the main opposition Democratic Congress to form a new government in the southern African nation.

A Council of State meeting on Monday advised King Letsie III to swear in Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Wednesday, according to the king’s senior private secretary, Monehela Posholi.

That left Thabane no choice but to leave in a historic smooth transfer of power without a no confidence vote or elections.

“The time to retire from the great theater of action, take leave from public life and office has finally arrived,” Thabane said in a televised address Monday. He asked citizens to give his successor the “utmost support.”

Thabane served as prime minister from 2012 to 2015 and from 2017 to now. The first stint also ended prematurely as he was pushed out by opponents allegedly for failure to deliver on electoral promises.

Despite his requests to regional Southern African Development Community mediators, Thabane leaves without any guarantees from immunity from prosecution for the 2017 murder.

Thabane had filed for divorce from Lipolelo when she was shot dead near her Maseru home on the night of June 14, 2017. The attack occurred just two days before Thabane was sworn in for his second stint as prime minister.

His current wife, Maesaiah, who is also charged, has been out on bail while Thabane asked the Constitutional Court to stop the courts from trying him for the crime while he remained in office. His retirement means he could now stand trial.

Among Majoro’s immediate tasks as prime minister will be to pass the budget and revive the economy. Despite confirming only one case of the coronavirus, Lesotho’s economy has taken a massive hit due to the global slowdown.

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