Lesotho party rules out immunity for embattled leader Thomas Thabane

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Thulani Mbele/Gallo Images/Sowetan

The head of Lesotho's ruling party on Wednesday rejected Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's demands for immunity from prosecution in a murder case that has gripped the southern African mountain kingdom.

In power since 2017, the octogenarian leader faces mounting calls to leave office from rivals within his ruling party and opposition groups over allegations he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife three years ago.

Thabane has promised to retire by the end of July on the grounds of "old age" but also demanded immunity from prosecution so that he may retire with "dignity, grace and security".

But his party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), and the opposition demand his immediate departure.

"There is simply no way how he can get immunity for prosecution for the alleged murder of his estranged wife," ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele told AFP.

"We are all equal before the law and that would be setting a very bad precedent if he were to be granted immunity."

"He should leave... we are left with the how part. It is the only thing that we are left to grapple with."

READ | Murder, power and army on the streets: Lesotho's deepening crisis

This week the Senate amended the constitution, capping the prime minister's powers to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.

Thabane had in March decided to suspend parliament for three months after the lower house National Assembly passed a bill barring him from calling fresh elections if he lost a no-confidence vote.

But the suspension was overturned by the constitutional court last month, stifling his bid to stay in power.

The deputy leader of opposition party, the Democratic Congress (DC), Motlalentoa Letsosa, said they were determined to see Thabane leave.

"Now that the ninth amendment to the Bill has been passed with success, it means that he has run out of options and the only thing that's left for him is to leave," Letsosa said.

He warned that should Thabane insist on staying in power, "we are going to go through with our motion of no confidence as soon as yesterday if he really demands a graceful exit."

Police have charged Thabane's current wife, first lady Maesaiah Thabane, with the murder of his previous wife Lipolelo Thabane.

The couple were involved in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo Thabane was gunned down outside her home in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, in June 2017, just before her husband's inauguration.

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