ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) Youth League President Taelo Ntsokotsane says the killing of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, Lipolelo Thabane, last week was a last ditch effort by the premier’s enemies to stop his inauguration.
Mr Ntsokotsane also asserts that the parties in the former coalition government are trying to divert the murder investigation away “from the real culprits” to shield them from scrutiny.
However, Democratic Congress (DC) spokesperson Serialong Qoo has rebuffed the claims, saying there was nothing to be gained by the former governing parties in Ms Thabane’s demise.
Ms Thabane was shot dead in her car last Wednesday night by an unknown assailant as she was arriving at her Ha ‘Masana home in the outskirts of Maseru. A female companion also sustained serious injuries.
She was assassinated with just a day to go before Dr Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister last Friday, after the All Basotho Convention (ABC) pooled its seats with those of the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho to form government after the 3 June 2017 elections.
A police investigation into the killing is ongoing, with no arrests being made so far.
Since the tragic incident, the government and opposition parties have been trading accusations over who was behind it.
The parties in the former government include the Democratic Congress, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.
Earlier this week, LCD Youth League Secretary-General Potso Shao addressed a press conference on behalf of the seven parties in which he claimed that it was “crystal clear” who was behind the killing.
They implicitly cited Dr Thabane’s divorce proceedings with Ms Thabane and a court ruling appointing her as first lady as a possible motive.
Dr Thabane filed divorce papers against Ms Thabane – who was his second wife — on 27 July 2012, on grounds of malicious desertion, among other things.
The matter was still pending in the courts at the time of her death. However, the High Court had ruled, on 13 January 2015, that Ms Thabane was the country’s official first lady “and should be immediately afforded all the benefits she is entitled to, including a chauffeur-driven government vehicle and bodyguard” pending finalisation of the divorce case.
However, according to Mr Ntsokotsane, the assassination was a “desperate attempt” by the former governing parties to stop Dr Thabane’s inauguration as premier last Friday.
He pointed to the 13 June 2017 letter the parties wrote to Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairperson, King Mswati III, last week claiming that the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections were “rigged” by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The parties claim in the letter “that busloads” of South Africans were ferried into Lesotho to vote illegally and also demand a forensic audit of the polls. They also urge SADC to push for a government of national unity, instead of the Dr Thabane-led coalition.
The parties had also placed an expectation on SADC to act on their demands before Dr Thabane’s inauguration last Friday.
However, efforts to get SADC’s response, through its facilitator to Lesotho, South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa, were fruitless until going to print last night.
Mr Ntsokotsane said the former government was determined to stop the inauguration “at all costs”, adding that the allegations they were now peddling were meant to divert attention from the culprits.
“What the congress parties are doing right now is to try to divert police investigations to a different direction from the real perpetrators,” he said.
“Every family has its unique complexities and the congress parties are attempting to take advantage of the fact that the court made a ruling in the deceased’s favour for their political agenda.
“It is a cruel and painful strategy they have decided to employ because we are talking about a life that was mercilessly terminated.”
Mr Ntsokotsane said the assassination was meant to stop Dr Thabane’s inauguration.
“We heard some people on radio stations saying the inauguration should not go ahead after that fatal shooting. It became apparent that the assassination was a failed attempt to stop the inauguration. The call to stop the inauguration was made by the same congress people who are now trying to accuse other people of killing her.”
He said there was no merit to allegations that Ms Thabane was killed over a fight for the title of first lady.
“To my knowledge, there is only one first lady in this country and that is Her Majesty.
“That title is Her Majesty’s preserve and it was a mistake for people to call Mme ’Mathato Mosisili for instance the first lady. This concept was introduced by the congress parties and left unchecked for years.”
Mr Ntsokotsane also appealed to Basotho to respect Dr Thabane’s right to privacy on the matter.
“The prime minister is going through a trying time and, as a human being, he deserves some privacy.”
For his part, Mr Qoo said they had nothing to gain from Ms Thabane’s death.
“What the ABC is claiming are lies. What would we benefit from the office of the first lady?” he said.
“They, on the other hand, have everything to gain. It should also be noted that the deceased won a case before the courts of law that she was the rightful first lady. So, they would have every reason to do away with her.”
Mr Qoo urged the government not to interfere with police investigations.
“I implore them not to meddle with the investigations, since we have heard that they want to replace the Police Commissioner (Molahlehi Letsoepa). They should leave the investigations to proceed and not defeat the ends of justice in any way,” he added.