Thomas Thabane voting in Abia village Maseru, Lesotho. Photo: Denvor de Wee/Visual Buzz SA/ANA Pictures

Maseru – The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) said they had launched a manhunt for the killers of incoming Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo Alice Thabane, who was shot and killed Wednesday evening.

Mrs Thabane was shot in Ha-Masana in the outskirts of Maseru near Lesotho’s main international airport while travelling with a female friend who sustained serious injuries and is now in hospital.

Police Spokesman Senior Superintendent Clifford Molefe said the shooting occurred at about 6:40 pm on Wednesday . He said no one had been arrested so far but police had launched investigations which he said were still in the preliminary stages.

But irate supporters of Mr Thabane were quick to point fingers at Lesotho’s army which has consistently sought to undermine the incoming Prime Minister even though there is no proof yet that the soldiers were involved.

An official with Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) said they held no hope for any investigation in light of the fact that no one has been arrested in connection with the numerous murders of Mr Thabane’s supporters in the past.

He described the killing of Mr Thabane’s wife as a “last ditch effort” by the military to scupper the incoming Prime Minister’s inauguration slated for Friday morning. Mr Thabane has himself survived numerous assassination attempts by the army and has twice fled his country to seek refuge in South Africa, first as Prime Minister and then as main opposition leader.

Mr Thabane won snap elections held on June 3 2017, marking his second return to power, from where he had been ousted in earlier elections in February 2015. The 2015 elections were called after a series of unsavory events in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) staged a coup attempt in August 2014. Since then, Lesotho has endured instability and a commission of inquiry by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has recommended a rafter of constitutional and security reforms to de-politicize state security organs.

It has since emerged that Mrs Thabane initially survived another assassination attempt when her house was attacked by unknown assailants earlier in the week. If the motive of her killing is to destabilize her husband’s second return to power, it remains unclear why she would have been a prime target. Lesotho’s political environment remains highly toxic. One school of thought was that the plotters of the killing had wanted her dead earlier in the week as a ploy to arrest Mr Thabane over the murder and forestall his inauguration. The inauguration is nonetheless set to proceed Friday.

Mr Thabane has been enmeshed in a bitter divorce wrangle with his wife which has often hit the news headlines.

Independent Foreign Service