Lesotho PM Steps Down Amid Murder Scandal

In this file photo taken on June 3, 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling statio in Maseru, during Lesotho's general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP
In this file photo taken on June 3, 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling statio in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Lesotho’s embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane announced his resignation on Monday, ending months of political uncertainty gripping the kingdom since he was accused of participating in his ex-wife’s murder.

Thabane’s political rivals have piled pressure on the prime minister to step down early over allegations that he had a hand in the brutal 2017 shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was divorcing.

His coalition was disbanded in parliament last week and he had been expected to resign by May 22, when a new government is due to be installed.

“I decided to personally come and inform you that I am stepping down as prime minister of Lesotho,” Thabane told supporters in his Abia home constituency on the outskirts of the capital Maseru.

The 80-year-old did not state when he would formally quit but government spokesman Nthakeng Selinyane said the premier would officially “announce his resignation” in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

“It is rather difficult to part ways with something that you had been accustomed to and leave people behind, but we all have to leave at some point,” Thabane added.

For the time being, he will remain leader of his ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), he said.

Thabane, whose term is due to end in 2022, had in January set himself a target of leaving office by July 31 because of his advanced age.

But Lesotho has been plagued by political instability since the start of this year, when police said they found Thabane’s mobile number in communications records from the scene of his estranged wife’s murder.

Political instability

The alleged evidence prompted rivals within and outside Thabane’s party to demand his immediate resignation.

Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was shot and killed outside her home two days before her husband’s inauguration in July.

The murder sent shock waves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

Thabane has denied involvement in the killing.

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.

Thabane’s government collapsed after his coalition partners pulled out over his repeated refusal to leave office earlier than stated.

The ABC and main opposition Democratic Congress party have nominated Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as Thabane’s successor.

Lesotho’s supreme traditional leader King Letsie III was advised by his council on Monday to appoint Majoro as prime minister, his senior private secretary Monehela Posholi said in a statement.

“Majoro will be sworn in as his successor tomorrow at 10 am (0800 GMT),” said ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa.

The ABC’s national executive committee is expected to hold a special conference in July to elect a new party leader.

While no premier has served out a full five-year term in Lesotho over the past decade, the octogenarian Thabane boasted in an interview with AFP last week 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.”

Lesotho Records First Coronavirus Case

 

Lesotho, the last African country to have been unaffected by coronavirus, on Wednesday announced it had detected its first case of COVID-19.

The virus was detected on an individual among 81 people who were tested after arriving last week from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring South Africa, the health ministry said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Health informs the Basotho nation and the entire community living in Lesotho, that the country now has the first confirmed case of COVI-19,” Director-General Dr. Nyane Letsie said.

The patient is a Lesotho national studying in Saudi Arabia.

Lesotho went into lockdown on March 29 to protect itself from a potential spread of the virus from South Africa, which entirely surrounds the kingdom and has the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane loosened the restrictions on May 6 allowing “all non-essential services and enterprises” to “temporarily open shop”.

South Africa has 11,350 confirmed cases and 206 deaths.

AFP

Lesotho’s Embattled PM Sends Army Into Streets To ‘Restore Order’

 

Lesotho’s embattled prime minister announced on Saturday he had sent troops onto the streets to “restore order”, accusing unnamed law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is under pressure to step down after police said they suspect him of having a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017, a case that has thrown the country into political turmoil.

Saturday’s order comes just a day after the country’s constitutional court overturned a controversial decision by Thabane to suspend parliament.

In an address on public television, the 80-year-old leader said he had “deployed the army to take control of this situation and take necessary measures against these elements in alignment with the security orders and restore peace and order”.

“This is to avoid putting the nation in danger,” he said.

 

 

A highly placed government source said police commissioner Holomo Molibeli, his deputy Paseka Mokete and another senior police officer have been arrested by the army.

“The general informed the prime minister that he has arrested Holomo, Mokete… They are temporarily detained at Makoanyane Barracks,” the source told AFP in the capital Maseru.

There was a heavy presence of armed soldiers, in bulletproof vests and helmets, patrolling the streets.

Other soldiers drove around Maseru in armoured cars.

The premier said he was “surprised” that some “institutions entrusted with maintaining order and adhering to law are busy tarnishing the very principles” of the country’s stability and democracy.

He said the army would also help enforce a 24-day coronavirus lockdown in the country, which has so far not recorded a single case.

The prime minister’s order is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom.

– ‘Plot to topple government’ –

The murder accusations against Thabane came after communications records from the scene of his estranged wife’s murder included the prime minister’s mobile phone number.

His order deploying the army comes a day after the constitutional court set aside his decision to suspend parliament for three months.

In March, Thabane imposed a three-month suspension of parliament shortly after the national assembly passed a bill barring him 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 probe his ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party rivals, whom he accused of plotting to topple his government.

Citing his advanced age, the prime minister had earlier this year offered to step down from office by July 31 following the accusation of his possible involvement in the murder of his then estranged wife.

He faces allegations he acted in “common purpose” in the killing of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

Lipolelo’s murder, two days before his 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 co-conspirator in the murder case and has already been charged.

– ‘Misusing the security forces’ –

Thabane’s ABC rivals are pushing for his early departure and have teamed up with opposition with the goal of forming a coalition government.

Lesotho has a long history of political turmoil.

It has been more than a decade since a prime minister served out a full five-year term in the country which is completely landlocked by South Africa.

The opposition and analysts say the prime minister is instigating stability in the country by pitting the police against the military.

Mathibeli Mokhothu, leader of the largest opposition party the Democratic Congress, said Thabane’s order was triggered by Friday’s court ruling.

“He is misusing the security forces. This is creating conflict between the army and police.

“He is the one who is destabilising peace in Lesotho,” Mokhothu told AFP.

Motlamelle Kapa, a political science professor at the National University of Lesotho said Thabane “has lost control because he himself is not behaving like a PM”.

“The current situation is a struggle between the police and the courts of law where they are trying to bring the executive to order and make them account for their wrongs.

“This is not the first time we see things reeling out of position when police try to call the Prime Minister to order,” Kapa said.

Only Six African Nations Yet To Record Any Case Of COVID-19

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

 

Six of Africa’s 54 nations are among the last in the world yet to report cases of the new coronavirus.

The global pandemic has been confirmed in almost every country, but for a handful of far-flung tiny island states, war-torn Yemen and isolated North Korea.

In Africa, authorities claim they are spared by god, or simply saved by low air traffic to their countries, however, some fear it is lack of testing that is hiding the true impact.

– South Sudan –

The East African nation is barely emerging from six years of civil war and with high levels of hunger, illness and little infrastructure, observers fear the virus could wreak havoc.

Doctor Angok Gordon Kuol, one of those charged with overseeing the fight against the virus, said the country had only carried out 12 tests, none of which were positive.

He said the reason the virus has yet to reach South Sudan could be explained by the low volume of air traffic and travel to the country.

“Very few airlines come to South Sudan and most of the countries affected today they are affected by… people coming from abroad.”

He said the main concern was foreigners working for the large NGO and humanitarian community, or people crossing land borders from neighbouring countries.

READ ALSO: Global Lockdown Tightens As Coronavirus Deaths Mount

South Sudan has shut schools, banned gatherings such as weddings, funerals and sporting events and blocked flights from worst-affected countries. Non-essential businesses have been shuttered and movement restricted.

The country can currently test around 500 people and has one isolation centre with 24 beds.

– Burundi –

In Burundi, which is gearing up for general elections in May, authorities thank divine intervention for the lack of cases.

“The government thanks all-powerful God who has protected Burundi,” government spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye said on national television last week.

At the same time, he criticised those “spreading rumours” that Burundi is not capable of testing for the virus, or that it is spreading unnoticed.

Some measures have been taken, such as the suspension of international flights and placing handwashing stations at the entrances to banks and restaurants in Bujumbura.

However, several doctors have expressed their concerns.

“There are zero cases in Burundi because there have been zero tests,” a Burundian doctor said on condition of anonymity.

– Sao Tome and Principe –

Sao Tome and Principe — a tiny nation of small islands covered in the lush rainforest — has reported zero cases because it is unable to test, according to World Health Organisation representative Anne Ancia.

However “we are continuing preparations,” with around 100 people in quarantine after returning from highly-affected countries, and the WHO keeping an eye on cases of pneumonia.

With only four ICU beds for a population of 200,000 people, the country is desperate to not let the virus take hold and has already shut its borders despite the importance of tourism to the local economy.

– Malawi –

Malawi’s health ministry spokesman Joshua Malango brushed aside fears that Malawi might not have registered any COVID-19 cases due to a lack of testing kits:

“We have the testing kits in Malawi and we are testing.”

Dr Bridget Malewezi from the Society of Medical Doctors told AFP that while “we may not be 100 percent ready”, government was gearing up for the arrival of the virus.

She suggested it may only be a matter of time before the pandemic hits Malawi.

“It’s only been in the past few weeks that it has been rampantly spreading across Africa so most people feel it will get here at some point…,” she said.

Malawi has asked people coming from hard-hit countries to self-quarantine, which Malawezi said had helped “safeguard the country from any possible spread of the virus”.

– Lesotho –

Tiny Lesotho, a kingdom encircled by South Africa with only two million inhabitants, went into national lockdown on Monday despite registering zero cases.

Until last week the country had no tests or testing centres and received its first kits thanks to a donation by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Authorities had reported eight suspected cases that they had not been able to test and the first results are expected soon.

– Comoros –

The Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros, situated between Madagascar and Mozambique, has yet to detect a single case of the virus, according to the health ministry.

One doctor in the capital Moroni, Dr Abdou Ada, wonders if it may not be because of the wide use of the drug Artemisinin to treat malaria.

“I believe that the mass anti-malarial treatment explains the fact that Comoros is, at least for now, spared from COVID-19. it is a personal belief that needs to be confirmed scientifically.”

AFP

Lesotho PM In Court Over Murder Of Estranged Wife

Prime Minister of Lesotho/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appeared in court on Monday over the murder of his estranged wife after a weekend in which he was said to be receiving emergency medical care in South Africa.

In the latest twist of a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom, the 80-year-old premier attended the magistrate’s court in the capital Maseru, an AFP correspondent reported.

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.

But after a brief sitting, the matter was deferred to the High Court and the prime minister was not formally charged.

He was accompanied by his current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death and who is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

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

Defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika argued that Thabane should not be charged as long as he remained a prime minister.

“My client cannot be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law,” said Letsika, adding the beleaguered premier was “entitled to immunity” because of his status.

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

Thabane had initially been due in court on Friday for the preliminary appearance but was a no-show, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

His aide initially said Thabane had gone to neighbouring South Africa for “routine” health checks, but later his office said he was seeking “emergency” medical attention and would appear in court on his return.

 Appeared nervous 

On Saturday police said Thabane’s sick note said that the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

Wearing a navy-blue striped suit with a powder-blue shirt and flanked by his spouse, Thabane appeared nervous as the couple sat on one of the court benches.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shockwaves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in Maseru just two days before her husband took office. The couple had been embroiled in a bitter divorce.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

The case has piled pressure on Thabane to step down.

His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has accused him of hampering investigations into the killing and asked him to leave.

Last week Thabane announced on national radio and television that he would retire by July 31, citing his advanced age.

But at the weekend speculation mounted that he could go earlier than expected.

The main opposition party the Democratic Congress, on Friday filed in parliament a motion of no confidence in the prime minister and his administration.

If Thabane loses the motion, he could either step down or advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.

AFP

Lesotho Police Postpone PM Court Appearance Over Wife’s Murder

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 19, 2017 Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane is seated at the Opening Session of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria.
GULSHAN KHAN / AFP

 

Lesotho police on Saturday said they would wait for the prime minister’s return from “sick leave” to resume a court case in which he is suspected of murdering his estranged wife.

Thomas Thabane, 80, is accused of having acted in “common purpose” in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was divorcing.

He had been due in court for a preliminary appearance on Friday, where he was expected to be formally charged.

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

Deputy Police Commissioner Palesa Mokete, however, said Thabane’s lawyers had sent him a “sick leave note” claiming the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

“While we admit that is quite coincidental, we shall have our own means to ascertain this state of affairs,” Mokete told AFP on Saturday, adding that he had “no reason to doubt” the document.

READ ALSO: Togo Goes To Polls As President Seeks Likely Fourth Term

He said no arrest warrant has been issued as yet and that “new arrangements” would be made for Thabane once he was “fit for an appearance”.

Lipolelo Thabane’s murder sent shock waves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million that has a long history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru just two days before her husband took office.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a co-conspirator and has already been charged with murder.

The premier has faced pressure to resign by senior party officials, who accused him of hampering investigations into the killing.

He announced earlier this week that he would step down on July 31.

In his inaugural speech, Thabane had described his wife’s murder as a “senseless killing”. He and Maesaiah — who at the time had the status of a “customary wife” — both attended Lipolelo’s funeral.

AFP

Murder Charge: Lesotho PM Fails To Appear In Court, Claims Ill-Health

 In this file photo taken on August 19, 2017 Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane is seated at the Opening Session of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria. GULSHAN KHAN / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2017 Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane is seated at the Opening Session of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria. GULSHAN KHAN / AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who was due to be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, failed to appear in court on Friday on medical grounds, an aide said.

“He is not attending court, he has gone for a medical check-up in South Africa,” his personal secretary Thabo Thakalekoala told AFP, adding it is a “routine” medical check.

Thabane left the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho on Thursday, the same day that police announced he was due Friday to appear before a magistrate for murder charges to be formally read out to him.

Earlier on Friday the PM had announced on the state broadcaster that he would quit office by the end of July due to old age.

The 80-year-old is accused of having acted “in common purpose” in the June 2017 killing by unknown assailants of Lilopelo Thabane, 58, then his wife.

The killing occurred two days before the premier took the oath of office following elections.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, has also been charged with the same murder of her rival.

The death shook the landlocked kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

In his inaugural speech, Thabane described his wife’s murder as a “senseless killing”.

 

AFP

Police To Charge Lesotho PM With Murder Of Wife

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, who was gunned down ahead of his inauguration in 2017, police said Thursday, as the beleaguered premier announced he would quit by the end of July.

Lilopelo Thabane, 58, was killed in June 2017 by unknown assailants on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, two days before the premiere, now aged 80, took office.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo was murdered in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Her death shook the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Police investigations found that communications records from the day of the murder included his cell phone number.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP that the 80-year-old prime minister “will be formally charged with… murder”.

“It does not necessarily mean he was there but that he was acting in common purpose,” Mokete said.

The case also drew in the prime minister’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who has also been charged with the same murder of her rival.

“She was charged under common purpose even though she did not pull the trigger, but people she was acting in consent with pulled the trigger,” said Mokete by phone.

Sporting a bright yellow outfit complete with a matching headscarf, she sat straight-faced, next to the prime minister during his inauguration that was held at a stadium in Maseru, two days after the murder.

The long unresolved murder had plunged the PM’s leadership into question, forcing his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to ask him to resign.

 ‘Old man should go’ 

The ABC had given him until Thursday to step aside but he snubbed their deadline, instead of saying he will only go by July 31.

“I effectively retire as prime minister with effect from the end of July this year, or at an earlier date if all the requisite preparations for my retirement are completed before then,” he said in an address on national radio.

He said the decision to step “has been the hardest to make in my over half-a-century career as in the public service. I have been battling with this idea for over a year now”.

“The truth is at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I used to be a few years ago,” he added.

“I hope that the remaining months that I will spend in office will afford parliament and my party enough time to work on transitional arrangements.”

Thabane’s re-election in 2017 had brought hopes of stability to Lesotho, a country with a long history of turmoil.

He first came to power in 2012 as head of the country’s first coalition government, formed after an inconclusive vote.

But his second term was rocked by Lipolelo’s murder and ructions in the ruling party, buffeting the picturesque kingdom of 2.2 million people.

Opposition parties and many ordinary people in the country also want Thabane gone.

“It defies logic how he still wants to remain in office despite the controversy that surrounds him,” said street vendor Malefa Mpobole, 42.

Another citizen, Lenka Ntjabane, 43, said: “This old man should just go. He should just take his wife and go”.

AFP

Lesotho Murder Intrigue ‘Traumatises’ Already Volatile Kingdom

 

Murder, mystery, suspense and political drama — the cocktail of events playing out in Lesotho belongs in a best-selling thriller.

But it is the lived reality of a small southern African kingdom teetering on the brink.

Lesotho’s picturesque mountains and ski resorts have earned it the moniker of Africa’s Switzerland. But lately, the country has been rocked by scandal, with the first family sucked into the long unresolved murder of the prime minister’s previous wife.

In 2017, 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane was gunned down near her home, just two days before Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was sworn into office.

The premier and his then-wife were engaged in a bitter divorce at the time.

Two months after Thabane assumed office, he married Maesaiah, now aged 43.

Last week, she was charged in connection with the murder of her rival.

Thabane’s election had brought hopes of stability to Lesotho, which has a long history of political turmoil.

He first came to power in 2012 as the head of the country’s first coalition government, formed after an inconclusive vote.

But the start of his second term was rocked by Lipolelo’s murder, which sent shock waves through the tiny kingdom of 2.2 million people.

The now 80-year-old prime minister was also questioned last month after investigations revealed that communication records from the day of the murder picked up his cell phone number.

“That put a personal crisis on top of a political crisis that had been going on for almost a year,” said Nqosa Mahao, the deputy president of Thabane’s ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Mahao, who has been at odds with Thabane since he was elected deputy last year, has said Lipolelo’s murder had “foredoomed this government”.

A faction of the troubled party has since asked Thabane to resign. He agreed to go on the grounds of his advanced age but has yet to give a date for his departure.

It has been more than a decade since a prime minister served out a full five-year term in Lesotho.

 ‘Battered image’ 

Thabane has already fled the country once.

His 2012 coalition government was marred by political bickering, which culminated in an army-led coup in August 2014.

The prime minister sought exile in South Africa after soldiers attacked police posts and surrounded his official residence.

He returned home in 2017 and successfully ran for re-election.

Yet once again, his party has been rocked by ructions and is split down the middle. The alleged link to the murder of his previous wife has only added to his woes.

“We as a country have never had to sink so low, the second-highest office in the country (after King Letsie III) linked to crime,” Mahao said. “We as a nation are traumatised.”

He said the scandal, which sparked headlines both at home and abroad, “has battered the image of the country”.

“We were already the region’s mischievous boy even before this crisis,” he told AFP in the capital Maseru.

“Whoever imagined that the (murder) crime would” reach the prime minister’s office, he asked.

The Democratic Congress — the main opposition party founded by Thabane’s predecessor Pakalitha Mosisili — could not agree more.

“The rule of law in this country has collapsed and the executive has become the law unto itself,” said its current leader Mathibeli Mokhothu.

He said Thabane’s link to a murder “brings shame on us… He is the face of the country”.

“We are all disgruntled, and instability is at levels never seen before,” Mokhothu told AFP, backing calls for the “old and tired” Thabane to step down.

Parties in Thabane’s coalition also want him gone.

“In other democracies once there is such an allegation against a head of state, (he) automatically would voluntarily resign,” said Machesetsa Mofomobe, deputy president of the Basotho National Party speaking from his party headquarters.

“We are also calling on him to call it a day,” Mofomobe said.

 Successor unknown 

Thabane’s party has yet to agree on a successor to serve out his term after he leaves office.

The next national elections are due in 2022.

On the streets people are jaded.

“We don’t know what is going on in our country,” said civil servant Dineo, 38, declining to give her full name.

“We keep on electing these people and they keep on disappointing us. This is the last straw.”

“(Thabane) is one person who we had so much faith in,” she added, vowing “never ever” to vote again as she left a Sunday morning church service.

AFP

Lesotho First Lady Granted Bail Over Murder Charge

 

Lesotho’s first lady was released on bail on Wednesday after she was detained overnight and charged with murder over the killing of her husband’s estranged wife.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, had been placed in custody after turning herself in on Tuesday, ending a weeks-long disappearance.

She was charged after police quizzed her on the brutal murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife two days before his inauguration in June 2017.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo Thabane was gunned down in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Thomas Thabane agreed to step down last month after police linked his mobile number to communication records from the day of the crime. He has not yet given a timeline for his resignation.

His wife made a first appearance before Lesotho’s magistrate court on Wednesday after spending the night in jail.

The magistrate court freed her on a 1,000 maloti (61 euros) bail.

In court, Maesaiah Thabane stood in a traditional pink dress before a roomful of opponents and sympathisers, listening as the magistrate read out her rights.

Her husband did not attend the hearing.

The first lady is suspected of orchestrating the shooting. Police have also charged her for the attempted murder of Lipolelo Thabane’s friend Thato Sibolla, who was wounded at the scene.

She has yet to comment on the allegations.

The murder of the 48-year old future first lady shocked the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing and pressured him to resign.

He showed up for questioning last month — shortly after his wife was summoned by the police and went into hiding.

AFP

Lesotho First Lady Charged With Murder

 

Lesotho police on Tuesday charged first lady Maesaiah Thabane with murder for her alleged links to the brutal 2017 killing of the prime minister’s previous wife.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, will spend the night in custody after she came out of hiding and turned herself into the police earlier on Tuesday.

“She has been charged with murder alongside eight others who are in Lesotho and South Africa,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told reporters, adding that investigations had been “satisfactorily completed”.

He said police had a “strong case” against the first lady, who was unable to appear in court on Tuesday due to logistical reasons.

The eight other accused will also be summoned by the police.

Maesaiah Thabane went missing last month after being summoned as part of an investigation into the killing of Lipolelo Thabane — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife.

The couple was involved in bitter divorce proceedings when she was gunned down outside her home in Lesotho’s capital Maseru in June 2017, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

New evidence surfaced in early January when a letter from Lesotho’s police chief was made public alleging that communication records from the day of the crime picked up the prime minister’s mobile number.

Thomas Thabane, who is now 80, has since bowed to pressure and offered to resign at a date not yet disclosed. He has also been questioned by the police over the killing.

But his current wife vanished when the police called her in to testify last month, prompting the issuing of an arrest warrant.

The prime minister’s press attache did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the murder charge.

The murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane sent shock waves through the tiny mountain kingdom, which is ringed by South Africa and has a long history of political turmoil.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing.

Thabane last month said he would leave office on the grounds of old age but gave no time frame for his departure.

Hundreds of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Maseru on the day the prime minister was quizzed by police, demanding he step down with immediate effect.

Maesaiah Thabane was picked up on the border with South Africa following an arrangement between her lawyer and the police.

AFP

Lesotho’s First Lady Turns Herself In For Questioning Over Murder

 

Lesotho’s first lady on Tuesday came out of hiding and turned herself in for questioning over the brutal 2017 murder of the prime minister’s previous wife, police said.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, went missing last month after she was summoned by the police as part of an investigation into the killing of Lipolelo Thabane — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife.

The couple was involved in bitter divorce proceedings when she was gunned down outside her home in Lesotho’s capital Maseru in June 2017, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

New evidence surfaced in early January when a letter from Lesotho’s police chief was made public alleging that communication records from the day of the crime picked up the prime minister’s mobile number.

Thomas Thabane, who is now 80, has since bowed to pressure and offered to resign at a date not yet disclosed. He has also been questioned by the police over the killing.

But his current wife vanished when the police called her in to testify, prompting the issuing of an arrest warrant.

“(Maesaiah Thabane) initiated her coming back,” police spokesman Mpiti Mopeli told AFP, adding that the first lady was “picked from the border” with South Africa, following an arrangement between her lawyer and the police.

“Right now she is still being questioned,” he said. “Talks will determine whether she (will) be detained or not.”

The murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane sent shock waves through the tiny mountain kingdom, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa and has a long history of political turmoil.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing.

The prime minister last month said he would leave office on the grounds of old age but gave no time frame for his departure.

Hundreds of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Maseru on the day the prime minister was quizzed by police, demanding he step down with immediate effect.

AFP