Lesotho PM appears in court for murder trial, requests immunity

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Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane (L) with his wife Maesaiah Thabane (R) in court for murder trial of Lipolelo Thabane

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appeared in court in the capital Maseru in a pre-trail hearing on Monday, alongside his present wife Maesaih to hear charges of murdering his ex wife.

Thabane, 80, is suspected of involvement in the murder of his ex wife Lipolelo, who was shot dead in June 2017, two days before he took office for a second stint as premier — and two months before he married his current wife Maesaiah.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, has also been charged with the murder, and police suspect her of ordering assassins to do the job. Both deny any involvement.

Thabane had initially been scheduled to hear the charges on Friday, but left to South Africa, for what aides said was a medical appointment.

Crowds of supporters packed the magistrates’ court and gathered outside for Monday’s hearing.

No charges were read out and his lawyer argued the case should be referred to the high court to answer a question of possible immunity, which magistrate Phethise Motanyane granted.

He has said he will resign at the end of July, and several members of his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have been pressuring him to go sooner to avert a political crisis.

However, a potential plea of immunity would likely raise doubts over how willing he is to step down, further fanning the political crisis in Lesotho.

Lesotho, a mountain territory of 2 million people, has a history of coups and political instability. Many fear a power vacuum unless the ABC can agree on a successor, and analysts expect a general election will have to be called soon.

 

Chidi Nwoke.