Lesotho’s Constitutional Court will have to rule on whether Prime Minister, Tom Thabane, can be tried while in office.

On Monday Thabane appeared in front of the Maseru Magistrate’s Court where he was expected to be charged with the 2017 assassination of his then estranged wife, Lipolelo.

Thabane failed to make his scheduled appearance on Friday last week.

Political analyst, Dr Victor Shale labelled Thabane’s failure to appear in court as a delaying tactic.

The argument was presented by the defence that the Magistrate’s Court did not have jurisdiction to try a sitting Prime Minister. Magistrate Phethise Motanyane referred the matter to a higher court.

“This is indeed a novel case in our country and whose determinations we eagerly anticipate having heard submissions on both sides  and on authority of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Mothobi and another vs the crown to which this court was referred I find that there is indeed a substantial question of law raised the application for referral to the high court is granted.”

Thabane appeared in court wearing a blue suit and blue tie, the 80-year-old sat in court alongside his present wife, Maesaiah, who is also charged with the murder.

Thabane’s wife Lipolelo was shot dead in June 2017. They were going through divorce proceedings at the time. It happened two days before he took office for a second stint as PM, and two months before he married Maesaiah.

Police suspected Maesaiah, who’s 42, of ordering assassins to do the job.

Calls for Thabane to step down

Lesotho’s ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party wants Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to step down immediately, with chairperson Samuel Rapapa ready to take over, the party spokesperson said on Monday.

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said by telephone that the party’s National Executive Council had agreed on Rapapa during discussions on Monday and delivered his name to parliament. In theory, since the ABC has a majority in parliament, it does not need to put the nomination to a vote.

But it is unclear what happens if Thabane, who had said would quit at the end of July amid a high profile criminal case in which he is suspected of murdering his wife, refuses to go. He denies murder.

Additional reporting Reuters