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Confusion in Lesotho as incoming PM’s wife shot dead

Maseru, Lesotho | AFP |  Just days before his inauguration, Lesotho’s incoming prime minister was left shaken Thursday by the murder of his estranged wife in a shooting highlighting the political uncertainty which has long gripped the mountain kingdom.

Thomas Thabane’s 58-year-old wife Lipolelo, was shot dead Wednesday in Ha Masana village, 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of the capital Maseru where she lives, as she was driving with a friend.

Samonyane Ntsekele, the secretary general of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party, said the prime minister-elect was devastated by the shooting.

“Yes it is true that Mrs Lipolelo was shot dead last night… Everyone is traumatised by these developments,” he said.

Thabane, whose party won a parliamentary election earlier this month, is due to replace Pakalitha Mosisili, prime minister since 2015, after forming a coalition with three other parties.

The gunning down of Thabane’s wife just two days before he is due to take office, has created confusion in the tiny poverty-stricken country, completely surrounded by South Africa.

Thabane is expected to be sworn in Friday amid hopes his new coalition government will end the political uncertainty that has long dogged the mountain kingdom.

His ABC party won snap elections on June 3 but failed to get an outright majority, leading it to negotiate joint rule with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

The new alliance will replace the government of Mosisili, a seven-party coalition plagued by infighting and corruption.

Mosisili’s government was toppled in March and elections triggered when opposition parties called a vote of no-confidence which he lost.

Thabane, 77, previously had served as premier of the nation of two million people after coming to power in 2012 — but was forced to flee to South Africa following an attempted military coup in 2014.

– ‘Manage the security forces’ –

He has pledged to bring the country stability and address its chronic poverty and 22.7 percent adult HIV rate.

“We are fully cognisant of our mandate to work tirelessly for peace and stability as well as economic recovery and prosperity,” he said.

Thabane will be sworn in at the Setsoto stadium in the capital Maseru, marking the country’s third attempt at a coalition government. Both of the previous joint administrations have collapsed.

The Thabane-led alliance won 63 of the 120 seats in parliament, while outgoing Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) scored just 30.

Stability was the dominant theme of the election in the kingdom known as Africa’s Switzerland, because of its mountainous scenery.

Political analyst Mafa Sejanamane told AFP that the main challenge facing the new government will be to “manage the security forces”.

“The new government also needs to unscramble Mosisili’s government system, as it is known that he placed a number of allies in key positions in the last days of his tenure,” said Sejanamane.

Thabane has vowed that his new government will be “committed to the rule of law… good governance, rebuilding and strengthening of the pillars of democracy”.

Thabane secured victory just four months after his return from South Africa having claimed there was an army plot to kill him. He only headed back after the removal of army chief Tlali Kamoli who led the putsch.

Lesotho has a long history of political instability having suffered coups in 1986 and 1991.

South Africa’s foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane warned Lesotho this week that Pretoria will not tolerate another putsch.

“The coup thing is clear: we will not allow it to happen. Not in our backyard,” she told local media.

South Africa led mediation efforts after Thabane’s ouster and its Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected in Lesotho for the inauguration ceremony.

Lesotho’s economy is totally reliant on South Africa which it supplies with water — one of its major exports.


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