By Staff Writers
Maseru, Jan 17 (The Night’s Watch) – The beleaguered 80-year old Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, a master tactician, today announced his plan to retire, but did not specify when.
Initially, Thabane’s premiership inspired hope in thousands of Basotho, especially the poorest.
When former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-administration that was marred by allegations of corruption at all levels was ousted in June 2017, it came as a relief to a sizeable majority who hoped that with Mosisili out of the state house, rampant corruption in the public sector will be history.
That was exactly what the incoming Prime Minister Thabane had pledged would happen.
In a rousing inauguration speech on June 16 2017, delivered to an adoring crowd in the Setsoto stadium, Thabane promised the nation the world.
Among his commitments was that his government would move to tackle endemic corruption in the country.
But now, about 31 months from his inaugural ceremony, tainted by numerous accusations of misconduct, Thabane has come to symbolize the incompetence that flourishes in his time in office.
As he announces his imminent departure, his ruling party, All Basotho Convention (ABC), has been abandoned by thousands of voters.
He expressed remorse today saying that in performing his political responsibilities, he had not been the epitome of perfection.
“I am planning to retire as Prime Minister, but I will let the nation know when that times comes,” Thabane told a press conference at the old state house in Maseru on Friday.
“I, however, will remain leader of the ABC until party members decide to elect another leader or until I decide to resign from this position,” he added.
He indicated that he was tired and old yet as recent as January last year, he said he wanted to lead the ABC in the next general elections due in 2022 and rule the country for another five years to 2027 when he will be 88.
Some observers believe that Thabane, who was seemingly untouchable just a couple of months ago, plans to retire because he faces possible murder charge for his alleged involvement in the assassination of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane in June 2017.
Lipolelo was shot dead by unknown assailants as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.
While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli earlier this month revealed that investigations into the murder implicated Thabane.
Molibeli made the revelation in an explosive affidavit contained in the application he filed in the High Court for an order declaring that his suspension from office by Thabane on June 3, with immediate effect, was irregular, unlawful, illegal, and null and void.
In his affidavit, Molibeli claimed that: “I wish to take this Honourable Court into my confidence and disclose that in the investigation of the murder of one Lipolelo Thabane, the 1st Respondent (Thabane) is implicated. I have sought expert evidence in the matter both from RSA (Republic of South Africa) and the U.S. (United States of America).”
Before this revelation, Thabane had repeatedly indicated strongly that he would lead the country until 2022 and beyond. He had overcome attempts to overthrow him, even by his party’s Members of Parliament (MPs), with a combination of guile and boldness.
Last week, following Molibeli’s claim, his own ABC’s national executive committee ordered him to step down, saying his continued presence as the nation’s leader would hurt the national integrity, erode the confidence among Basotho, and indicating that he was hurting the party’s electoral prospects.
As Thabane remained defiantly silent, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) – which has long been subject to political interference – summoned his wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, for questioning in connection with the murder of Lipolelo.
When ‘Maesaiah refused, police obtained an arrest warrant and raided the state house but first lady was nowhere to be found.
The intended message of summoning the first lady and later raiding the state house, analysts said, was that those closest to Thabane, or even Thabane himself, could be next unless he acceded to his party’s request to quit.
Then, a few days after that, as Thabane gave no indication of resigning, the opposition parties escalated the pressure. They gave him seven days to step down.
Pushing back, Thabane’s followers said he should be allowed to complete his term but the momentum was not in their favour as it seems Molibeli’s revelation has closed all narrow paths of escape. NW