South Africa has stepped in to ensure the Lesotho government carries out a “dignified and secure” exit deal for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane – who is suspected to have had a hand in killing his estranged wife – and is under pressure to step down.
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.
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.
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 loses a no-confidence vote hanging over his head.
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.