Lesotho amends constitution, pressures PM to resign

HEAT IS ON: Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is facing pressure from all sides
HEAT IS ON: Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is facing pressure from all sides
Image: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Senate of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho amended the constitution on Tuesday, capping the prime minister’s powers to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections, as pressure for his resignation mounts.

The opposition and even rivals in his ruling party are calling on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to step down over suspicions he had a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017.

Police have charged his wife, first lady Maesaiah Thabane, with the murder of his previous wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

The couple was involved in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo was gunned down outside her home in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, in June 2017, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

Despite vowing to step down in July due to old age, the 80-year-old premier has fought tooth-and-nail to stay in power.

In March he suspended parliament for three months after the National Assembly passed a bill barring him from calling fresh elections if he lost a looming no-confidence vote.

The Constitutional Court overturned his decision in March.

On April 18, the premier sent troops onto Maseru’s streets for a day to “restore order”, accusing law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy.

Pundits predict Thabane’s next move will be to advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament, which the law allows.

But the latest constitutional amendments prohibit premiers from advising the king to dissolve parliament unless a majority of legislators support the move.

The new amendments passed by the 33-member Senate seek to limit the power of prime ministers while giving parliament a more meaningful role in its own dissolution.

“What happens now is for the amendment to be taken to the speaker of the National Assembly who will then pass it on to His Majesty for endorsement as a law,” Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, leader of the opposition Popular Front for Democracy, said. — AFP

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