MASERU, Lesotho, Apr 21 – Political players in Lesotho have pledged a “dignified and secure” exit deal for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who is under pressure to step down, mediators said Monday.
The octogenarian leader faces mounting calls to leave office from rivals within his ruling party and opposition groups over suspicions he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017.
In a surprise show of force on Saturday, Thabane deployed soldiers backed by armoured vehicles to “restore order” while accusing unnamed “rogue” law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa immediately despatched a panel of envoys to the tiny kingdom surrounded by South Africa to facilitate talks between the 80-year-old Thabane and his opponents.
Following the talks, the South African mediators said in a statement that the Lesotho coalition government “commits to effecting the implementation process or modalities for the dignified, graceful and secure retirement” of the prime minister.
No departure date was given.
But parliament is expected to meet as soon as is possible to work out and finalise the departure process.
The delegation’s leader Jeff Radebe told journalists that “one or two” sticking points remained before “all political parties (will be) of the same mind in terms of speeding up that parliamentary process”.
The constitutional court on Friday overturned Thabane’s decision in March to suspend parliament for three months.
The move came shortly after the national assembly passed a bill barring Thabane from calling fresh elections if he had lost a no-confidence vote that has been hanging over his head.
Thabane, in power since 2017, has promised to retire by the end of July because of his age but his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the opposition demand his immediate departure.
He ordered the security forces and intelligence service to probe his ruling party rivals, whom he accused of plotting to topple his government.
The premier has been under immense pressure to step down after police investigations suggested he was involved in the murder of his late wife, Lipolelo Thabane, three years ago.
He faces allegations he acted in “common purpose” in the killing of the 58-year-old, whom he was in the process of divorcing.
Lipolelo’s murder two days before Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister sent shock waves through the tiny picturesque mountain kingdom of 2.2 million people.
His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 43, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case and has already been charged.