JOHANNESBURG/MASERU. – South Africa has called for calm in the Kingdom of Lesotho as the country’s security forces go on high alert in preparation for today’s inauguration of incoming Prime Minister Tom Thabane following the murder of his estranged wife Lipolelo.
Lipolelo Thabane and Thato Sibolla, who works for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services, were shot on Wednesday night as they travelled home on the outskirts of the capital Maseru.
Lipolelo Thabane succumbed to her injuries early yesterday morning in hospital, just a day before the swearing in of premier-elect Tom Thabane. In a statement released by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) yesterday, Pretoria called on Lesotho’s law enforcement authorities to expeditiously investigate the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. “The South African government conveys its deepest condolences to the Thabane family during this difficult time of mourning,” added the Dirco statement.
There is speculation that the shooting may have been politically-motivated despite details surrounding the incident remaining unclear. Furthermore, these dramatic developments have spiked fears of increasing instability in the land-locked mountain kingdom which has gone through a series of crises leading up to the inauguration.
In 2014, Thabane, who won the country’s elections earlier this month, fled to South Africa fearing for his life following an attempted coup. The premier-elect only returned to Mbabane earlier this year, together with two other opposition leaders, after vowing to regain power after previously ruling the country from 2012 to 2015.
On Sunday, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane warned that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would not tolerate any military coup “in any of its corner”. “This was made very, very clear to everyone in Lesotho two weeks ago. They have just had an election a year and a half ago and they have also undertaken to go back to the reforms on the role of the police and the military, which have been supporting leaders from opposing parties which they themselves say has bedevilled focus on governance,” she was quoted as saying.
In March, Lesotho’s parliament passed a vote of no confidence in outgoing Prime Minister Pakalithi Mosisili, paving the way for the June 3 election which Thabane won after securing 48 out of 120 parliamentary seats. Although Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) emerged as the winner in the election with the 48 parliamentary seats, it failed to garner the requisite 61 seats needed to form a government.
This prompted Thabane to say that ABC would form a ruling coalition together with the Alliance Democrats, Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho. Thabane’s win reverses Lesotho’s former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing teaming up with Mosisili and other smaller parties to oust Thabane two years ago.
Lesotho, a nation of two million people, has been hit by several coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966. Meanwhile, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also SADC facilitator, will today attend the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Tom Thabane in Lesotho, the presidency said in a statement yesterday. – African News Agency/News24.