Jailed former First Lady seeks bail




MASERU – Former First Lady, ’Maesaiah Thabane will stay in custody until Tuesday next week when the court hears her bail application. She has filed a fresh bail application after the Appeal Court last Friday cancelled her initial bail granted by Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) ’Maseforo Mahase on February 5.

’Maesaiah had been charged in relation to the murder of her husband’s second wife, Lipolelo Thabane near her home in Ha ’Masana in June 2017. A few hours after being remanded in custody, Justice Mahase granted her (‘Maesaiah) M1000 bail. There was controversy surrounding the manner in which the bail was granted, including that the prosecution was not given a chance to oppose the bail. These was also the sticking issue regarding determining the bail in the judge’s chambers with reports later emerging the bail deposit was made after she was released from detention.

Aggrieved by the High Court’s decision, her husband’s grandson, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane Jnr, Lipolelo Thabane’s two nephews – Khauhelo Molapo and Thuto Mokhooane – as well as well as one Thato Sibolla who was with Lipolelo when she was assassinated, petitioned the Appeal Court to review the bail. The Appeal Court cancelled her bail saying Justice Mahase did not make the necessary judicial inquiry when she granted bail. The court said Judge Mahase ought to have considered factors such as the interest of the community, the integrity of the criminal justice system, intimidation of the witnesses as well as interference with witnesses ought to have been considered.

For this, the bail was cancelled and remitted back to the High Court to be determined by a different judge other than Justice Mahase. The court also directed the High Court to enroll ’Maesaiah’s bail as a matter of urgency. The effect of the Appeal Court judgment was that the former First Lady be arrested and sent back to jail but police were not immediately able to locate her. She handed herself to police on Tuesday and appeared before Court on Wednesday. Magistrate Thamae Thamae on Wednesday ordered ’Maesaiah to the female correctional facility where she will remain incarcerated to report back in court on June 16 to be briefed on progress on the case.

The magistrate remanded her in custody pending the hearing of her bail application. The Appeal Court has directed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) along with parties interested in filing papers, to do so within three days of the order. They were directed to respond to the initial bail petition but during ’Maesaiah’s appearance in court on Wednesday, Advocate Lepeli Molapo told the court that ’Maesaiah was at liberty to file a fresh application. Court officials confirmed that a fresh application has been filed in the criminal registry of the High Court. According to the notice of motion, the petition will be heard on June 9.

“Kindly take notice that the above mentioned matter has been set down for hearing on the 9th June 2020.” In her previous bail application, Maesaiah denied involvement in the killing of Lipolelo and said she was arrested on allegations that the husband’s mobile phone number was involved in the crime. She also said she was not at the scene of the crime when it happened and that she was never part of a plot to kill Lipolelo.

On top of the murder charge, ’Maesaiah has also been charged for the attempted murder of one Thato Sibolla who was with Lipolelo when she was murdered. Former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane has also been implicated in the murder. Thabane is yet to be formally charged after attempts to haul him before court were thwarted when he argued he could not face prosecution as a sitting premier, and Magistrate Phetise Motanyane granted him leave to challenge his indictment.

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