Pressure mounts for Thabane’s ouster

 

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – The executive committee of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) was on Friday locked in closed-door discussions with a special envoy from South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. On the agenda was the fate of prime minister Thomas Thabane.

The party wants Thabane to resign immediately but he has indicated he will not be pushed out of office until he is ready to leave, insisting nobody has the right to set the time for his departure from office. In April, the government assured a South African delegation led by former minister Jeff Radebe that Thabane would be granted a dignified exit. The stalemate around Thabane’s departure has plunged Lesotho into unprecedented political uncertainty prompting Radebe and his team to return to Lesotho.

“The South African delegation arrived in the country today (Friday) in the morning. It paid a courtesy call on His Majesty King Letsie III at the royal village in Matsieng,” Thabane’s Senior Private Secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala, said yesterday. “From Matsieng, the delegation proceeded to Maseru where it held meetings with various stakeholders including the heads of the country’s security institutions. The delegation is in the country to measure progress in the execution of the Prime Minister’s dignified, graceful and secure retirement,” Thakalekoala added.

Thabane, who came to power in 2017 and was scheduled to stand down in 2022 after serving five years, has been under pressure to step down over his alleged involvement in the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, three years ago. Lipolelo was ambushed and shot dead by unidentified attackers in June 2017, two days before Thabane’s inauguration. There have been accusations that Thabane was using his position to hamper investigations into the killing while his current wife, ’Maesaiah, was charged over the killing before he was released on bail.

Insiders told Public Eye yesterday that a key sticking point in the ongoing negotiations was the potential criminal court case that Thabane could face for his alleged involvement in the murder of his second wife, Lipolelo. He is said to be seeking immunity from prosecution for himself and his third wife, ’Maesaiah. “The South African delegates had a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane,” insiders said.

Thabane’s premiership has also been marred by allegations of poor service delivery and high unemployment which have fueled public anger. Local opposition parties, along with the radical South African opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have called on the prime minister to step down with immediate effect. If he refuses to step down, he is likely to be ousted via a parliamentary vote of no confidence within days.

Thabane’s hold over the ABC was shaken in February last year when professor Nqosa Mahao was elected deputy leader of the party against his wishes. Since then, the party has been broadly divided into two almost formal separate and contesting parties, namely; the ABC of Thabane and the ABC of Mahao. These groups are barely held together by the colours and emblem, making calls from within the ABC and the opposition for Thabane’s removal to grow louder.

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