Lesotho PM can be fired if he fails to quit, his party says

Thabane told AFP he would resign this week (AFP Photo/MOLISE MOLISE) (AFP/File)

Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) - Lesotho's beleaguered prime minister can be sacked by the king if he does not resign before May 22, his party said Thursday.

The tiny southern African nation has been gripped by political turmoil over accusations that premier Thomas Thabane may have had a hand in the killing of his former wife.

Thabane had told AFP that he intended to hand in his resignation to the country's supreme traditional leader, King Letsie III, on Wednesday.

But on Thursday, the prime minister's spokesman Relebohile Moyeye said he had not "received information that the PM has resigned".

Thabane's coalition government collapsed in parliament on Monday, paving the way for the creation of a new one and the appointment of a successor premier.

His own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party said the king can fire Thabane as he has not quit.

"The constitution says if the prime minister has lost support in parliament, the speaker will advise His Majesty," ABC chairman Samuel Rapapa told AFP.

"The king has authority to remove him now that the report has been submitted by the speaker that Thabane no longer commands the majority," Rapapa said, replying to a question about what would happen if Thabane does not resign by May 22 -- the date parliament reconvenes.

"We are now expecting the king to remove the prime minister. As to when, we don’t know," Rapapa said.

Thabane, 80, who faces possible prosecution over the killing of his ex-wife, told AFP in a telephone interview that he is retiring because of old age.

Thabane and his then wife Lipolelo Thabane, 58, were going through a bitter divorce when she was shot and killed outside her home two days before her husband's 2017 inauguration.

Police have since found Thabane's mobile number in communications records from the crime scene.

That prompted rivals within and outside his party to demand his immediate resignation.

He briefly appeared in court in February but he was not formally charged and it is yet to be decided if he enjoys immunity or not.

Thabane, whose five-year term was due to run until 2022, said he felt ready to leave and was tying up loose ends to ensure his retirement was "as smooth as possible".

Thabane's party has nominated Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as his successor.