The estranged wife of incoming Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has been shot dead just two days before his inauguration, creating confusion ahead of the handover of power.
Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was travelling home with a friend when both women were shot by an unknown assailant in the Ha Masana village, 35 kilometressouth of the capital Maseru where she lives, the police say.
A police source said, “The suspect pulled out the gun and opened fire on them. Lipolelo died on the spot while the other woman is fighting for her life in hospital.” The police add the motive is unknown and an investigation is continuing.
The couple had been living separately since 2012 and filed for divorce which hasn’t been granted yet.
Reports said neighbours claim there had been an incident earlier in the week when a group of unidentified men were spotted hammering on the First Lady’s door.
She won a bitter high court battle against her husband to secure the privileges of a First Lady, instead of Mr Thabane’s youngest wife, Liabiloe.
Mr Thabane is now living with a third wife.
Samonyane Ntsekele, the secretary general of Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party said that the prime minister was devastated by the shooting.
“Everyone is traumatised by these developments,” he said.
The election took place earlier this month and was the third election in three years. Thabane is due to replace Pakalitha Mosisili, prime minister since 2015, after forming a coalition with three other parties following elections earlier this month that handed his party most seats in parliament.
There is a bitter power-struggle in the country and Mr Thabane has been reported to have enemies in the military. He fled to South Africa, where he spent two years, while the regional bloc SADC stepped in to end the crisis. Early elections were held in 2015.
Lesotho has a long history of political instability having suffered coups in 1986 and 1991.
His inauguration is still expected to take place as Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa who has played a key mediation role in Lesotho, told broadcaster SABC he hoped the ceremony would go ahead as planned.