Photograph — Daniel P. Lapierre

Following an agreement between Lesotho’s coalition government, South African mediators, and other stakeholders, there will be a “dignified and secured retirement” for embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. This was revealed by negotiations in a joint statement on Monday, April 20, 2020. 

According to the joint statement released, “the coalition government of the Kingdom of Lesotho commits to effecting the implementation process or modalities for the dignified, graceful and secure retirement of the right honorable prime minister.” Thabane had pledged to step down at the end of July 2020, but South African mediator Jeff Radebe told journalists in Lesotho’s capital Maseru that “the timeline is immediate,” for his leaving office.

Thomas Thabane has been under pressure to step down from rivals within his ruling party as well as opposition groups over suspicions that were involved in the murder of his estranged wife First Lady Lipolelo in 2017. Lipolelo’s murder which took place two days before Thomas Thabane’s inauguration as Lesotho’s Prime minister sent shock waves throughout the tiny mountain kingdom of 2.2 million people in Southern Africa. 

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. However, both Thabane and his wife Maesaiah deny any involvement in the murder.

The killing was initially blamed on unknown criminals; Lesotho has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Investigators have since been of the notion that professional hitmen probably hired from South Africa carried out the attack.

Although there was no immediate comment by Thabane or his spokesperson as to whether he intends on quitting his position as Lesotho’s Prime Minister, the details of the agreement confirmed that a firm decision has been taken on the issue irrespective of Thabane’s stance. The conclusion by negotiators 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.

The Prime Minister’s final attempt to hoard power took place over the weekend when he deployed soldiers and armored vehicles to the streets of Maseru in order to restore the environment against “rogue national elements”. The move prompted authorities in neighboring South Africa to send envoys to the country. 

In an interview reported by Lesotho Times on Thursday, April 23, 2020, Prime Minister Thabane said that he will not be told when to leave the office. “People who I don’t report to (are) setting the time for my departure at their own convenient time. They have no right to do so.” Thabane told the national newspaper. 

Subsequently, Thabane’s political opponents told Lesotho Times on Wednesday that if the Prime Minister did not quit this week, they would oust him by passing a vote of no confidence against him. According to a report by Daily Maverick, negotiators had agreed earlier on that Thabane should step down by Friday this week (24 April).

Nevertheless, while speaking to Lesotho Times, Thabane said that he would not be pushed out before he is ready thereby rejecting the deal between South African mediators and his coalition government to step down. The Lesotho Prime Minister claimed,“ I want to ensure that all plans that we have put in motion are implemented before I leave.”

Furthermore, with Lesotho’s next general election coming up in June 2020, the coalition government should ensure that the country’s system is free from the embattled Prime Minister’s input. As this will prevent opacity and promote democracy in the South African nation. 

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