A South African delegation has reached an agreement with the Lesotho government and political parties to implement a “dignified retirement” for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, signalling stepped up efforts to end a political crisis.
Thabane has been under pressure to resign due to a murder case in which he and his current wife Maesiah are suspected of being involved in the assassination of his former wife Lipolelo Thabane, charges which both have denied.
Former SA minister Jeff Radebe, who led the delegation, says “the timeline is immediate,” for Thabane to vacate office.
“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 honourable prime minister,” a joint statement said.
South African diplomats arrived in Lesotho over the weekend to try to calm tensions.
This came a day after Thabane sent soldiers and armoured vehicles onto the streets of Maseru to restore order against what he said were “rogue national elements”.
Murder charges stun citizens
Gunmen shot and killed Thabane’s previous wife, Lipolelo, 58, on June 14, 2017.
The murder case has stunned citizens of Lesotho and plunged the country, which has experienced several coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, into political turmoil.
Though small and with a population of not much more than 2 million, Lesotho’s political upheavals often draw in its bigger neighbour, South Africa, for whom the kingdom’s mountains are an essential source of running water.
In 1998, at least 58 people and eight South African soldiers died and parts of Maseru were damaged in a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.