State House worker recalls the fateful night ’Maesaiah fled…




MASERU – Several players have found themselves at the centre of the dramatic crime story emerging from the 2017 murder of the country’s then First Lady Lipolelo Thabane. Fingered as a prime suspect in the crime and fearing imminent arrest Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane’s current wife ’Maesaiah skipped the country.

’Maesaiah had earlier barricaded herself in the State House as police told reporters they had an arrest warrant for her. Cops later confirmed that the First Lady had vanished from the official residence of the prime minister and was now considered a fugitive.

The First Lady’s inner circle of friends and confidantes were rumoured to have aided her escape from the law, and may have been in her company in the time she spent in the neighbouring republic in hiding.

Charges have already been preferred against some. Makeketso Rebecca Motopela, an employee at the State House, shared with Public Eye the events of the night ’Maesaiah fled the country.

Motopela has worked for the first family for over seven years, and is close to both Prime Minister Thabane and his spouse. “I work in their bedroom,” she told this reporter.

“It was on January 10 in the evening and we were sitting upstairs as workers here where we were extremely uncomfortable because earlier in the day we had seen members of the national police coming in and out of here.

“In the evening we heard the sound of cars and we decided to come downstairs, and found the police entering the hall,” she said.

Motopela said this group of officers, she believes, comprising about six or seven men immediately stopped them and demanded to know who they were, to which they positively identified themselves.

“They ordered us to take them to where the First Lady was, but we told them that we didn’t know her whereabouts. We were very scared because they were hostile to us,” Motopela continued.

She said they told the police they didn’t even know where ’Maesaiah’s bedroom was because of the hostility the men portrayed, adding “and all along we were very scared because they were all overly harsh to us except for one who went upstairs while another remained pointing a gun at us.”

“All five of us stood still as he held the gun facing our direction and told us that he would not allow us to go anywhere until they found the First Lady. However, when his colleagues returned he shouted at us to go away and we left.

“But what surprised all of us was that although we refused to show them ‘M’e ‘Maesaiah’s bedroom, they still headed straight to it as if they knew where it’s located,” she said.

Motopela added that it was also unusual that the police officers were not only hostile to them but they were also heavily armed.

“We were therefore very scared,” she said.

Of this inner circle of friends and confidantes ’Maesaiah also has a list of apologists who defend her innocence and see unfolding events to bring her to account for her involvement in Lipolelo’s killing as a witch hunt – a persecution.

  Keneuoe Machela (‘Maesaiah Thabane Trust Fund)

Machela is the director of the ’Maesaiah Thabane Trust Fund (MTTF), established in 2017 by the First Lady with the principal purpose of helping the needy citizens in the country. To date the Trust has helped several vulnerable Basotho. She says she has known the First Lady since 2008.

“She is like my mother, my sister, friend, everything. This whole thing is traumatizing to me and my family as she has not only been good to me and my family but to the whole nation as well,” Machela said.

She said the allegations leveled against the First Lady were depressing, and prayed that one day she would be pronounced innocent.

“I know her very well; I know that she is innocent. I believe the fact that she has been helping Basotho regardless of their political affiliation has sparked jealousy in some politicians. She has been helping widows, the elderly, orphans and vulnerable people of this country,” she stated.

Machela continued that “she told me that she didn’t do it, and I trust her. But we will still wait for the courts of law to prove her guilt or innocence, and I will be very happy if she is declared innocent.”

“Members of the opposition have been insulting us to the point that the image of the Fund has been tarnished as a result of the allegations, even the First Lady’s image has suffered. We pray for the rule of law to take its course so that this whole situation just goes away,” she added.

Nteboheleng Ralekuku (Friend)

She says she is an unwavering supporter of the First Lady of Lesotho and a very good friend of hers. The two have known each other for at least five years.

“However, the length of our friendship is not important…what matters is that the friendship is there. The friendship on my part was motivated by what she was doing in Lesotho, especially for the vulnerable people of Lesotho.

“That was when we started chatting. She has a passion for helping vulnerable people, which she had been doing long before she became First Lady,” Ralekuku noted.

She claims she is not surprised that ’Maesaiah is now making headlines for negative things because when she does good deeds and is involved positive projects they come under the spotlight and people eventually drag her names in the mud.

Ralekuku continued: “It is undeniable that she is doing a good job of helping people while she also married to a politician. And as you can see, this case is pure politics.” “Let’s go to the beginning; she is only being charged now yet the Commissioner of Police has been in that office for the past three years.

Ralekuku argues Thabane and his wife have only been accused of Lipolelo’s murder because he had sought to make Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli account for the escalating police torture and killing of civilians in custody – a fact she says has worried the international community and the Basotho in general.

“The thing is, the First Lady is not scared and has told us time and again that she is not scared and is prepared to co-operate with the police. But she has a problem with the manner in which she was sought, which we all agree was quite scary, especially when about 70 Basotho have died in police custody,” said the First Lady’s friend.

She vowed to continue to support her no matter the situation “because this whole saga is politically motivated. When you’re a prominent political figure doing good for your community people will start dragging your name through the mud to taint your image.

“There are serious allegations made by the police upon charging the First Lady, like when they say she took a gun and shot the lady (Lipolelo). This is quite different from what they were saying in the beginning. It all doesn’t add up. They simply want to distract her from doing the amazing work that she has been doing.

“I will keep on saying this is influenced by politicians. The police commissioner is abusing his powers; seemingly he is being pushed by some politicians. If there was no political influence, he would be executing his duties as he always had, with respect.”

Asked if she was convinced ’Maesaiah had nothing to do with Lipolelo’s murder Ralekuku said: “Definitely! I am a hundred and fifty percent convinced.”

She added as far as she was concerned there will be endless trips to court which will keep on postponing the case until they are told that there is no case due to insufficient evidence, adding that she wanted to believe that one year down the line there won’t be a case against the First Lady anymore.

She further poured scorn on self-exiled police witness in the murder case, Thato Sibolla, who claimed she fled because she feared for her life after ’Maesaiah was granted bail. Sibolla was in the same vehicle with Lipolelo when she was killed, she sustained serious gunshot wounds but survived the attack.

“She must come back home and contribute. She has been living in this country since that unfortunate event, the First Lady has also been living in the same country at the same time.

“I don’t understand why she suddenly says she is fearful. Who is scaring her? But I am worried for her, that she is exposing herself to other dangerous people. Like I said earlier, this is politics. So, she is going to be vulnerable because there are people who will target and harm her, then create the impression that it is the First Lady.

“She has been here as has the First Lady. If the First Lady ever wanted to harm her she could have done it a long time ago. She (Sibolla) has been here and nothing has happened to her,” she added.

MANAMA LETSIE (claiming to be speaking as a concerned citizen)

Letsie, a BNP activist who was formerly in the structures of that party’s youth league, claims to have no personal relations with the First Lady. “But as citizen of this country I have the responsibility to hold views and opinions of my own volition. I have the freedom to support those who I feel are being unfairly treated. She (’Maesaiah) is not perfect but it is important that in the execution of our duties we stick to the law and principles of dealing with human beings,” Letsie said.

He charged proper procedures were not followed in this case because the country is being pulled in all directions by external forces.

“There is a suspicion now that the First Lady is among those who are supposed to have killed the late ‘M’e Lipolelo, which is sad that she is late. But it remains a suspicion. Correctly so, because everybody has to be suspected. Only the King is immune to such. But from the prime minister to the last person, it is the right of the police to suspect anyone,” Letsie said.

He continued: “Police can call you to their premises for an interview. But you should know before going there that they must read out your rights to you first. For example, the fact that you have the right to remain silent. But we are never afforded the chance to remain silent. The information is forced out of us.

“It is just forced out of us. That is why now we have about 70 people who died in police custody in the past two years, all because the police don’t investigate anything. Once the police suspect you of a crime and summon you to the police station, you already know that information will be forced out of you.

“I remember one of the former acting police ministers telling the Compol to suspend the police involved in the murders of innocent citizens in custody. I think that is where the conflict started.

“It was then that it became apparent that there was conflict between government and the police. It was clear from the way the minister was talking, that there was animosity between him and the police administration. The minister was firm that it should be the last time he heard of deaths of people in police custody.

“From that time there was conflict brewing between the government and the police until we started to realise that the police were not doing their job anymore, that is, to help government find peace and stability, as well as maintain order in the country.

“And if the police cannot help government to achieve that, then it means the Commissioner of Police was not executing his mandate. In turn it says as citizens we must call him out for failure, tell him that he cannot continue to be in that position if he is failing to protect the lives of citizens,” he added.

Letsie told Public Eye he supports the Prime Minister’s earlier move to remove the police boss from office, further citing the recent case of police excesses in which a teenager was allegedly sodomised by a police officer while in custody. “So, I’m simply saying it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to take care of the citizens and listen when they are crying.

“Therefore, if the Prime Minister moved to remove the Compol, it was within the parameters of the law and his rights as well. Unfortunately, the external forces I referred to earlier wanted to intervene (Molibeli sought assistance of the FBI and the South African Police Service with investigations into Lipolelo’s murder).

“We had to stand firm with the PM, to tell the external forces that it is improper, unfair and disingenuous of them to expect our premier not to exercise his powers.

“In 2014 during Thabane’s first tenure as PM, one minister refused to be fired and the courts pronounced themselves clearly that, it would be wrong to deprive the PM of his prerogative to advice the King whether to employ or expel anyone. The courts said if they were to rule against the PM it would set a bad precedent and interfere with decisions that are his discretion.

“Then it came to this issue of the First Lady on January 10th this year. We heard through the media that a warrant of arrest against her had been issued by the Magistrate Court (for allegedly refusing to report herself to the police). We also later learnt that the police had stripped the First Lady of her bodyguards and that almost all the security had been recalled from State House.

“And then my question was: If you are removing security even from the Prime Minister, does it mean he is no longer PM? Is he still a PM without security? Isn’t this an attempted coup? It is an attempted coup because the security of PM has nothing to do with any arrest that they needed to carry out.

“Once you remove security from PM, his position is useless because that security is tied to it. “You are attempting the removal of PM. The plan is to remove the security the First Lady’s security then arrest her, which would in turn force the PM to resign.

“Everybody was singing the PM’s resignation song, opposition politicians and the external forces: when is the PM leaving? What is their interest when the PM leaves office? This is our PM, not theirs. They have problems in their own countries yet they want to force our Prime Minister out, whom we elected of our own accord.

“We are not even saying the First Lady should not be investigated if she is suspected of anything. She should be tried by competent courts of law. Her bail is now being opposed on shaky grounds by people who don’t even know that the Court of Appeal doesn’t entertain such.

Letsie also said people had allowed their emotions to cloud the principles of judicial processes where an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.

“Ironically, the same court of appeal which in 2014 ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in such cases, is entertaining this particular case because it involves this lady. Even if you hate her so much, even if you believe she is that diabolic, allow her to go through proper processes of the law.

Asked if he still believes Lesotho is at risk of a coup, given his earlier statements about the removal of the premier’s security, Letsie said he believed such a danger still looms large.

“Yes. A coup is a matter of your thoughts. If you ever think of removing a legitimate person from power, you are already treasonous at that time of thinking, talk less of when you talk and discuss that. There are people who are hell-bent on seeing the PM going home. But is none of their business. He will leave when it is suitable and only politicians will determine that.

“The external forces I am referring to are countries that have aired their views on this situation, all the countries that were pushing behind closed doors for the ouster of the Prime Minister. Countries that are interested in the change of power here. They all know themselves. I don’t want to name them”.

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