Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has formally resigned more than a week after his coalition government fell apart, in a move that could help end a long-running political crisis in the country.
"I come before you today to announce that the work that you assigned me may not be over but the time to retire from the great theatre of action, take leave from public life and office has finally arrived," the 80-year-old said in a televised address on Tuesday.
"I plead with the entire nation and leadership to give my successor utmost support and on my part I wish to assure him of my support at all material times," he added.
Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa reported that Thabane had formally handed in his resignation to King Letsie III, the top traditional leader of the tiny mountainous kingdom.
Thabane, the leader of All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, was facing mounting pressure to step down over a case in which he and his current wife are suspected of involvement in the 2017 murder of his previous, estranged wife. They both deny this.
The embattled prime minister had promised in January to retire due to old age but had been dragging his feet on when to do so.
Thabane's ruling coalition collapsed on May 11, and he had been expected to resign by May 22 when a new government is due to be installed.
Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, 58, is expected to replace him. Among his immediate tasks as prime minister will be to pass the budget and revive the economy. Despite confirming only one coronavirus case, Lesotho has taken a big economic hit due to the global slowdown brought about by the pandemic.
The 59-year-old Majoro is an economist who was once a director of the IMF.
He was nominated as prime minister after Thabane's four-party coalition collapsed, relegating Thabane to the position of caretaker prime minister.
In an interview with Eyewitness News last week, Majoro said that he had no choice but to make the COVID-19 response his first priority when he took over, saying that said COVID-19 and food security would be his main priorities.
Majoro is well aware of the health service challenges facing Lesotho.
He has always maintained he doesn’t believe that the country does not have any COVID-19 cases but the first one is now confirmed.
“We have to double our efforts to know how much infection is in our community. We moved in with lockdown too early and the impact on the economy was immense, but we have a little bit more capacity.”
Majoro said to achieve this, he wanted politicians who also have technical knowledge in his Cabinet.
“You cannot provide a solution unless you understand in-depth what the problem is. You cannot provide a superficial solution, you cannot brainstorm a solution. It’s not enough to sit down as Cabinet ministers and speak with passion, solutions are not created like that. We need to bring in knowledge but it’s a political process. It’s a game of balancing interests.”
Credit: EWN & ALJAZEERA