Great Britain

Lesotho prime minister to be charged with murder of ex-wife

Lesotho’s prime minister, Thomas Thabane, is to be charged with the 2017 murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo, a top police official has said, with the prime minister announcing he will step down later this year.

Thabane’s current wife, Maesiah, was charged earlier this month over the murder after briefly fleeing the country.

The deputy commissioner of police, Paseka Mokete, said the prime minister would appear at the Maseru magistrates court on Friday “to face a murder charge in connection with the killing of Lipolelo Thabane”.

The 80-year-old leader would also face an attempted murder charge in connection with the shooting of another person who was with his wife at the time, Mokete said. Police investigations were complete and more people would be charged soon, he added.

Thabane will become Lesotho’s first sitting prime minister to be charged with any crime. His current wife is out on bail and will next appear in court on 17 March.

Lipolelo, who had been estranged from Thabane and filed for divorce, she was shot dead in a car near her Maseru home on the night of 14 June 2017. Her friend, Thato Sibolla, who was travelling with her in the car, escaped with gunshot wounds and has since fled to neighbouring South Africa for her personal safety.

The attack occurred just two days before Thabane was sworn in for his second stint as prime minister.

It was not until January this year that the police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, filed court papers declaring Thabane a suspect in the killing. The prime minister subsequently tried unsuccessfully to oust the police commissioner. Molibeli said Thabane also sought to get immunity for him and his wife for the killing of his ex-wife.

Thabane said in a statement on Thursday he would step down “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 he communicated the message to King Letsie III, and a few days ago he visited the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to inform him of his decision to retire.

The All Basotho Convention, Lesotho’s ruling party, has been pressing Thabane to step down immediately, saying he cannot stay in office with the murder charge imminent.

Lesotho’s parliament is to open on Friday, and the ABC party wants him to step down before then or face a challenge in parliament, the party spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa said.