Lesotho’s would-be first lady was gunned down just before her husband’s inauguration

When was the last time Lesotho had a completely peaceful election?
When was the last time Lesotho had a completely peaceful election?
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
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The wife of Lesotho’s new prime minister was shot dead on June 14, two days before prime minister-elect Thomas Thabane was to be inaugurated. The murderers and their motives are still unknown, local police said.

Lipolelo Alice Thabane was gunned down outside Maseru, the capital, while driving with a female companion, according to the Lesotho Times newspaper. The 58-year-old and her husband were embroiled in a bitter divorce for years, and Thabane—previously prime minister from 2012-15—had campaigned during the most recent campaign with his new partner. In 2015, Lipolelo Alice Thabane won a court case affording her all the perks of a first lady, despite her crumbling marriage.

In recent years, Thabane’s political career has taken a dark turn. In 2014, Thabane was forced to flee to South Africa as soldiers mutinied, seizing buildings in the capital. Thabane swore there was a coup underway and refused to return “as soon as I know I am not going to get killed,” he said. Thabane has maintained that the threat to his life still exists.

The army denied staging a coup, arguing that they had mobilized against police who were trying to form their own armed faction. By then, Thabane had dissolved his cabinet, weakened by fractious coalitions. As life went on under a caretaker government elected in 2015, Thabane only returned this year, to win the election in what should have been a victorious return to politics.

The inauguration will proceed on Friday (June 16), News 24 reports.  

It’s uncertain what the murder will mean for Lesotho’s already fractious politics. Thabane’s return to politics is thanks to yet another faction cobbled together with three other parties. Lesotho, a tiny constitutional monarchy surrounded by South Africa, has suffered a series of coups since independence.