Lesotho leader soon to step down as murder probe continues

A government minister says the prime minister of Lesotho soon will retire, as investigations continue into the murder of his former wife

MASERU, Lesotho -- The prime minister of Lesotho soon will retire, a government minister said Thursday, as investigations continue into the murder of his former wife.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane communicated his intention to retire to the southern African nation’s King Letsie III, cabinet ministers and an envoy of neighboring South Africa, Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane told reporters.

Neither Maseribane nor the South African envoy, Jeff Radebe, said when the prime minister would step down except to say the process would begin soon. Radebe met with the 80-year-old prime minister Thursday for an appraisal of the unfolding political developments in the tiny nation, and later said the Lesotho leader had shared his intentions.

“We are very optimistic about what we heard because all the coalition partners were present and they were telling us their stories as to how the next days will be unfolding,” Radebe said.

The killing of the prime minister’s ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane, occurred two days before his inauguration for a second term in 2017, and two years after a court ruled that Lipolelo was the lawful first lady and entitled to benefits.

Police this week said they were searching for the country's first lady, Maesaiah Thabane, for questioning in the killing, while the police commissioner said the "noose" was tightening around the prime minister and those close to him.

Neither the prime minister nor his wife, Maesaiah, have commented publicly on the police remarks.

The secretary-general of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party on Wednesday said the party had called for the prime minister to retire on July 31.

“We feel he is no longer fit to lead. We decided that we will appoint someone from within the party to replace him,” Lebohang Hlaele said.

Party spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa said the party’s national executive committee would find a succession strategy to replace Thabane.