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

Maseru  — Lesotho's coalition government has agreed with South African mediators and political parties to implement a “dignified retirement” for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, a joint statement said on Monday.

Thabane has been under pressure to resign due to  a murder case in which he and his current wife are suspected of being involved in the death of his previous wife, Lipolelo Thabane, charges they have repeatedly denied.

Thabane had pledged to step down at the end of July, but President Cyril Ramaphosa's envoy to Lesotho, former minister Jeff Radebe, said in Maseru, that “the timeline is immediate”, for his leaving office.

The statement said the Lesotho government “commits to effecting the implementation process or modalities for the dignified, graceful and secure retirement” of the prime minister.

Ramaphosa dispatched the group of envoys to the tiny kingdom surrounded by SA to facilitate talks after Thabane deployed soldiers backed by armoured vehicles to “restore order” while accusing unnamed “rogue” law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy.

Thabane, in power since 2017, has promised to retire because of his age but his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the opposition have demanded 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.

Reuters, AFP