Mbabane: Lesotho’s beleaguered Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, has resigned, ending a months-long crisis that engulfed the poor mountain kingdom after he was accused of having a part in his ex-wife’s murder.
“I come before you today to announce that the work that you assigned me may not be over but the time to retire from the great theatre of action, take leave from public life and office has finally arrived,” he said in Nationwide TV address on Tuesday.
The tiny southern African state has been overwhelmed by instability since early this year when police accused Thabane of having a hand in the killing of his estranged wife in June 2017, shortly before he took power.
Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was shot several times at close range as she sat in a car outside her home, two days before her husband’s inauguration. She had reportedly refused a divorce and won a court battle to retain her privileges as first lady until any formal separation.
Thabane remarried two months after her death. His current wife, Maesaiah, 42, has been charged with murder after briefly fleeing the country. Both deny any wrongdoing.
Police have since found Thabane’s mobile number in communications records from the crime scene.
The 80-year-old leader appeared in court in February, where his lawyer argued that his office granted him immunity from prosecution.
The killing had originally been blamed on unknown criminals. According to The Guardian, Lesotho has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Investigators have since said they believe professional hitmen, possibly hired in South Africa, carried out the attack.
Thabane, who has denied any involvement in the murder, had been under mounting pressure to resign and was weakened by internal divisions within his All Basotho Convention party.
He will be replaced by Moeketsi Majoro, the Finance Minister, who will be sworn in by Lesotho’s king at the royal palace in Maseru on Wednesday.
“I plead with the entire nation and leadership to give my successor utmost support and on my part, I wish to assure him of my support at all material times,” Thabane said in his address.
The affair has been followed closely in South Africa, which surrounds Lesotho and has intervened before to maintain stability. Earlier this year, South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, suggested Lesotho could become part of his country under a federal arrangement.