Crime: Lesotho police call PM for questioning over former wife’s murder

Investigators hope Thomas Thabane can cast light on 2017 killing of Lipolelo Thabane

Police in Lesotho have summoned the prime minister for questioning over alleged links to the 2017 murder of his estranged wife.

It is the latest instalment in a long-running drama that some observers have described as a “game of thrones” in the poor mountainous kingdom in southern Africa.

Investigators hope Thomas Thabane, 80, can cast light on the death of Lipolelo Thabane, who was shot dead two days before his inauguration.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings and the killing of the 58 year old outside her home in the Lesotho capital, Maseru, sent shockwaves through the country.

Lipolelo Thabane had reportedly refused to divorce her husband and won a court battle to retain her privileges as the country’s first lady until any formal separation. Thabane remarried two months after the murder. His second wife, Maesaiah, 42, is also sought by the police.

The case was brought back into the spotlight this month by a letter from Lesotho’s police chief, which claimed communication records showed that someone at the murder scene had called Thabane’s mobile phone on the day of the crime.

The killing had originally been blamed on unknown criminals. Lesotho has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

“This case does not only attract the attention of Basotho nation [Lesotho] but it is of international concern,” the deputy police commissioner, Paseka Mokete, said.

Thabane said last week he planned to resign after senior members of the All Basotho Convention party accused him of hampering investigations into the killing. He gave no timetable for when he would be stepping down.

He is expected to report to the police on Wednesday and has said he will cooperate with the investigation.

“As the prime minister I have undertaken an oath to respect and protect the constitution and all other laws of Lesotho,” he told reporters in Maseru, promising to “get to the bottom of this matter”.

Lesotho has been in political crisis for several months, with Thabane confronting his party and parliament indefinitely suspended.

Several high-profile figures have also been summoned to provide information on the case, including Thabane’s second wife.

Police have been unable to trace the whereabouts of Maesaiah Thabane since she failed to turn up for questioning on 10 January. A court has since issued a warrant for her arrest.

Lesotho’s new first lady has been a controversial figure. Since taking on the role after the death of Thabane’s first wife, she has been accused of interfering in political appointments while a fund she set up to help reduce poverty in the former British protectorate has faced allegations of fraud and money laundering.

The Guardian