Thomas Thabane. Picture: AFP/GULSHAN KHAN
Thomas Thabane. Picture: AFP/GULSHAN KHAN

Maseru — Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane failed to appear in court on Friday in connection with the killing of his first wife, and his son said he had traveled to SA to see a doctor — but had not “fled the country”.

Thabane was due in court at 7am GMT over the death of Lipolelo Thabane, who was shot dead in June 2017 near her home in the capital Maseru two days before he took office. But the leader did not appear.

Police said on Thursday that Thabane was to be charged with Lipolelo’s murder.

Thabane’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, has already been charged with ordering the killing but is currently out on bail. “He has gone to SA to see a doctor,” Thabane’s son Potlako said by phone, talking about his father. “

Thabane’s private secretary Thabo Thakalekoala said the prime minister would be back in Lesotho some time at the weekend.

Lipolelo and Thabane were going through an acrimonious divorce at the time of her death, when an unknown assailant shot her dead in her car.

Maesaiah and Thomas Thabane, who married two months after Lipolelo’s killing, have denied any involvement in her death. The case has stunned the country, a mountainous state of 2-million people encircled by SA, with a long history of political instability.

The prime minister told local radio on Thursday that he would step down at the end of July, but he did not mention the case, citing old age instead.

With no clear front-runner to succeed Thabane in his All Basotho Convention party and other politicians clamouring for the job, some analysts expect another general election.

“While Mr Thabane’s departure promises some progress in reforming the political quagmire of Lesotho politics and security issues, it also holds some danger,” said NKC Research political analyst Gary van Staden.

Lesotho has seen a number of military coups since independence from Britain in 1966. In 2014, Thabane fled Lesotho for SA after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Maseru.

Van Staden said that a military intervention is unlikely this time around but that a contested race to succeed Thabane could cause political instability.