The 80-year-old prime minister of Lesotho resigned on Thursday over evidence linking him to the murder of his estranged wife and his new wife’s refusal to be quizzed by police.
Thomas Thabane had been under intense pressure to explain why a call was made to his mobile phone from the scene after his wife Lipolelo, 58, was gunned down in 2017 – shortly before he took power in Lesotho.
He married his third wife Maesiah Ramoholi, 42, who became the country’s first lady a few months later.
Mr Thabane resigned as detectives continue to hunt for Maesaiah after she failed to appear for police questioning on Friday and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Police commissioner Holomo Molibeli sparked the scandal last week when he wrote to Mr Thabane demanding to know the caller’s identity and the ‘subject matter’ of the call from the murder scene.
He wrote: ‘The investigations reveal that there was a telephonic communication at the scene of the crime in question … with another cell phone. The cell phone number belongs to you.’
The accusation has rocked the tiny poverty-stricken nation, which has a population of two million and is where Prince Harry volunteered during his gap year in 2004.
Senior members of Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused the PM of hampering investigations into the killing and calls for his resignation intensified when his wife failed to submit to police questioning.
Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane said: ‘Government cannot be above the law.
‘We would like to see her (Maesaiah Thabane) back home and go to the courts like everybody else.
ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told AFP Mr Thabane had told his ministers of his plans to resign on Tuesday.
He said the next step for the party was to appoint a replacement, which would then need to be approved by parliament.
‘There is no exact date in place as to when Thabane shall step down but it’s going to be soon,’ Masoetsa added.
Other high-profile figures have since also been summoned to provide information on the case, including the minister of water affairs and the government secretary.
Lipolelo was shot dead in an ‘execution style’ attack in the outskirts of the capital Maseru just two days before her husband’s inauguration.
A few months later he married his long-term partner Maesiah Ramoholi, 42, in an extravagant ceremony attended by thousands in the capital’s Setsoto Stadium.
The police chief’s accusations were made in high court documents filed by Mr Molibeli to challenge attempts by Mr Thabane to suspend him from duties for ordering police brutality against civilians.
He accuses the prime minister of having ‘ulterior motives’ for attempting to put him on indefinite leave because his investigations – aided by the FBI – had ‘implicated’ him in his wife’s murder
The couple had married in 1987 and had one daughter but they split in 2012 when Mr Thabane filed for divorce.
But Lipolelo refused to go quietly and the couple were still legally married at the time of her murder as the courts had not yet granted a divorce.
In 2015 she went to the high court and won the right to retain the benefits of being the country’s first lady including having a bodyguard and a chauffeur-driven car.
In his inaugural speech, Mr Thabane described his wife’s murder as a ‘senseless killing’.
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