. . . legal experts hold different views
MASERU – Former Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s legal team remains mum on preparations for his appearance in court on Tuesday where he is expected to be joined in the murder trial of his former and second wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
At the time of going to press, all contacts given to Public Eye, were either not available or their phones kept on ringing unanswered, but the paper has been reliably informed that the legal team was in a series of closed meetings to prepare papers that will counter his joinder and/or possible jailing.
However, some political analysts and legal experts believe Thabane’s expected court appearance is just a smokescreen meant to normalise the judiciary’s role in the current political dispensation leading to next year’s general election. Lawyer and political critic, Advocate Tembo Lesupi, thinks the move to draw the former Prime Minister into court could only be meant to legitimise the charging of opposition leaders.
Mothejoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and his former compatriot, and now leader of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Selibe Mochoboroane, who is also serving as minister in the current government, will have their day in court after arguing against their appearance for months. They both face treason, murder and attempted murder dating back to the 2014 attempted coup, when they shared power in the first coalition government in Lesotho with Thabane.
“It is quite surprising and hardly genuine. Maybe they feel if Thabane is in court then it will look okay for the rest to also be hauled into court,” said Advocate Lesupi further observing that given Thabane’s age and status, it could just be an appearance without any further effects. “Yes, he could be brought in and be charged and it would be done as quickly as possible so as to give him the chance to apply for bail timeously. After all who would want to see someone his age go to jail?” he quizzed, saying it could be just one of those staged theatrical series.
However, a senior local magistrate who cannot be identified for obvious reasons has a different view, thinks the indictment will go ahead. “First of all, the High Court does not act on its own to call for his appearance in court. Both the police and the prosecution are part and parcel of this call,” he said further adding that Thabane, like Metsing and Mochoboroane could spend their Christmas in jail if the law of this country is taken seriously.
Thabane (in his early 80s) was reportedly served summons to appear in court next Tuesday where he will be formerly charged and joined in a case in which his current wife, ’Maesaiah Thabane, face one count of murder, one of attempted murder and another of malicious damage to property, following the death of former wife of Thabane, Lipolelo, who was travelling with her friend, Thato Sibolla, on the day of the attack at Ha ’Masana on June 14, 2017.
Sibolla who survived the assault has since been on the run, fearing she could be eliminated as she is the key witness in the case. Earlier attempts by the police to push Thabane into the dock were dampened when he sought constitutional legal interpretation that he could not be tried as the then sitting Prime Minister.
Legal watchers were, however, dumb-founded when he was ousted as a Prime Minister in May last year and he voluntarily made way for Dr Moeketsi Majoro – now his deputy in the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) – to succeed him in a new coalition partnership with their bitter rivals, who were then the main opposition in parliament, the Democratic Congress (DC). An academic decision on the matter had also not been pursued as the prosecution and the investigating team of the police had then been at loggerheads on how to move forward with the case.
According to the current summons, former Prime Minister Thabane will appear in court as an ordinary Mosotho man with the same rights afforded to all citizens appearing and charged before the courts of law.
This could mean Thabane may have to be taken to jail after the charge, wherein he could then apply for bail, which could be granted or denied. His current wife and now co-accused, is out on a M1 000 bail with the police now challenging its conditions and seeking for her re-committal back into the Maseru Central female prison. Police and some of the people cited in the case as witnesses or victims (including Thabane’s grandchild, who shares the same first name with the former premier) had also tried to challenge the circumstances under which ’Maesaiah’s bail was granted by then Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase as well as the leniency that the court had applied in granting such.
Thabane joins other two Metsing and Mochoboroane who could also be send to jail after the Constitutional Court ruled they should be joined in the treason, murder and attempted murder case following the events of August 2014 when the army took several police stations and strategic places in the capital Maseru, in what was seen an attempted coup.
Both Metsing (former deputy Prime Minister) and Mochoboroane (current minister Development Planning) had cited the SADC agreement on the reforms route for them to be excluded in the trial. However, the famous “Clause 10” in the agreement was challenged and nullified in the courts of law as unconstitutional and unfair to the independence of justice system in Lesotho by some of the families that represented the victims.
They are both expected to appear in court on December 6, this year, to be joined in the already set trial, also with the possibility of being sent to jail. They are to join amongst others, the former commander of the army, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and other soldiers implicated in the case.