Why is Lesotho’s Prime Minister stepping down?


Thomas Thabane has been Prime Minister of Lesotho since June 2017, and before that was Prime Minister between June 2012 and March 2017. The 80-year-old recently announced he will step down from the office of Prime Minister, saying that he is no longer ‘energetic.’


However, it is not just the age of Thabane which has contributed to his decision to step down. In fact, there has been mounting discontent among the government and people of Lesotho. This is due to accusations against the Prime Minister, and the political decisions he took as a result of these threats.


What accusations have been made against Thomas Thabane?


Just before Thabane became Prime Minister of Lesotho, his former wife was shot by gunmen. His current wife, Maesiah, has been charged with the murder.


There was also an attempt to charge Thabane with the crime. However, this was not successful, because the constitution of Lesotho is unclear on whether the Prime Minister has immunity to a crime. 


The Prime Minister’s lawyers successfully argued that he was, in fact, immune to conviction. Nevertheless, this did not mean that the problems for Thabane stopped there. 


What political problems arose while he was Prime Minister?


The controversy surrounding Thabane led to political disputes. The coalition government (a temporary alliance between political parties for combined action) which Thabane was leading withdrew their support for him.


In addition, there was a motion to have a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister (a vote designed to push a minister out of government.) This would mean the government would have to resign. Fearing this vote, Thabane suspended parliament for 3 months (disallowed the parliament to meet or pass legislation.)


The suspension of parliament had several bad consequences. For example, this led to unrest in the streets of Lesotho’s capital, Maseru. Thabane used the army to resolve this unrest, which made him lose further support.


Alongside this, King Letsie agreed to laws which would stop the Prime Minister from suspending parliament unfairly. The King normally does not actively participate in politics, since the government has the main power of decision-making. This meant the Prime Minister’s decisions were undermined, and meant he lost a lot of support. Despite not wanting to step down at first, the political pressure for him to do so eventually became too much.


What is the future for the government of Lesotho?


Thabane will continue to be the Prime Minister until the 22nd of May, when a new government will be ready to take over. 


Thabane, in his announcement of stepping down, gave a message that he hopes there will be unity in Lesotho after he leaves. This refers to an emerging tension between the different parties in parliament. 


We can be optimistic in the sense that the new administration will surely be surrounded by less controversy than Thabane was. We can therefore hope that the new government will be able to relieve these tensions between parties.



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