The Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) investigates the killing of the estranged wife of prime minister-elect Thomas Thabane on Wednesday evening, while political analysts probe the political intrige.
Lipolelo Thabane was shot while in the company of female friend who is now in hospital.
Thabane awaits his inauguration as prime minister on Friday, having been appointed by King Letsie III following his victory in the June 3 elections.
The incident has escalated fear in the already tense and highly polarised nation. Thabane's supporters have pointed fingers at the outgoing administration for attempting to sabotage the inauguration.
Theories are widespread that the murder is to undermine the All Basotho Convention's new four-party alliance and erase the democratic gains by casting doubt on the morality and credibility of the alliance; and to sow confusion and chaos for the average Mosotho (Lesotho citizen).
There is speculation that the motive could be to provoke calls for a stay of the incumbent government while the matter is being sorted out, or to invite the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mount a Phumaphi-style commission of inquiry whilst the status quo remains.
Sympathisers of prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s outgoing coalition, on the other hand, argue Lipolelo was killed by ABC supporters to block her bid to reclaim her position as Thabane’s legal spouse, and, therefore, the country’s first lady – ousting his current wife ‘MaIsaiah, who had been accorded the status since her marriage to Thabane during his previous spell as prime minister.
Thabane has been in divorce procedures with the deceased. The case is still pending in court. Thabane married Lipolelo in 1987; they have been separated since 2009. Thabane filed for divorce from Lipolelo in July 2012 on the grounds of malicious desertion. They had legally adopted one child.
However in 2015 Lipolelo was declared Lesotho’s first lady by the High Court following a fierce court battle, and an order was issued for her to immediately be afforded all benefits pertaining, including a chauffeur-driven vehicle and a bodyguard. ‘MaIsaih had until then been the First Lady.
Professor Motlamelle Kapa of the National University of Lesotho (NUL) said the murder could have criminal or political motives, observing “others want to suggest the killing may even be around family feuds. But it is premature to insinuate anything when we don’t have facts.”
“And the problem is we may not even know who the assailants are knowing the way Lesotho criminal justice system operates. Things of this kind occur but the perpetrators are never brought to book and [you] never get to know who they are, you will remember number of deaths but we never get to know the culprits because investigations are never made thoroughly.”
Professor Mafa Sejanamane of the same university added that the killing has become a dampener to a very important day when the country expects to inaugurate the new prime minister. “Once investigations are afoot then we can comment, though we have a problem of people being killed with no investigations revealing anything and people not being taken to court,” Sejanamane observed.
Democratic Congress secretary general Semano Sekatle told African Independent that they will be waiting for police to wrap investigations for them to build an opinion based on facts.
Thabane’s son Potlako Thabane refused to comment on the matter saying the family was yet to meet and come up with an official statement.