Tiny Lesotho's political problems are again threatening to overflow into neighboring South Africa, with Lesotho's outgoing prime minister crossing the border instead of appearing in a Maseru court Friday to be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo.
Tom Thabane was scheduled to be in court Friday to face the charges in the 2017 death of Lipolelo Thabane, his first wife; however, his representatives say the 80-year-old leader went to South Africa for medical treatment. The prime minister announced Thursday that he would step down by July 31.
Tom Thabane's current wife, Maesaiah, is already charged with the murder and is free on bail despite the fact that she previously fled to South Africa to avoid prosecution. She was arrested shortly upon her return to Lesotho.
The couple have denied any involvement in the shooting death of Lipolelo Thabane, just days before Tom Thabane's election to his second term as prime minister. He previously served as prime minister from 2012 to 2014, but fled to South Africa, claiming that the military was trying to overthrow and kill him.
Fako Moshoeshoe, the chairman of the parliamentary caucus for the ruling All Basotho Convention, told VOA's Peter Clottey that Thabane's party is expediting plans to come up with a replacement.
"We have to call the caucus as soon as possible, as soon as Monday, so that we can sit down and come up with one name definitely, and then the national executive of the ABC will have to respond immediately to those issues and then come to the caucus and just let us know who they think will be the right candidate to become the prime minister," he said. "And then we will take it from there."
He declined to say who might be Thabane's successor.
Thabane's tenure has been marred with drama, including a number of killings of high-ranking officials in recent years. Critics say this is an inevitable consequence of Thabane's failure to keep the nation's security forces out of politics.
For now, the tiny mountain kingdom, which is led by a constitutional monarch, appears calm; however, economist Emmanuel Letete says the political drama has taken its toll.
"It has created some bit of uncertainty to the investors that they are no longer sure what is going to happen to the government or not," he told VOA. "You see, they hear news about the prime minister, about the prime minister retiring, about the prime minister involved, probably, or suspected to have been involved, in the murder of his wife. But then all this creates a very dark cloud over the economy in terms of foreign investors because they cannot make their own decisions whether to come or not."
Moshoeshoe appealed to leaders in the enclave nation, which is surrounded on all sides by South Africa, to keep calm and carry on.
"We appeal to each and every one in our country, most especially political leaders, to make sure that we keep the peace and prosperity of the country, for the sake of the country," he said.