MASERU – Murder accused First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane has vehemently denied killing or masterminding the murder of her husband’s second wife, Lipolelo over two years ago, court papers show.
In an affidavit filed to support her bail application, ’Maesaiah insists she was not remotely involved in the cold blooded murder of the woman from whom she snatched Prime Minister Tom Thabane.
’Maesaiah says she was not at the scene of the crime and that she was never part of the plot to kill Lipolelo, adding the number at the centre of the police probe belonged to her husband.
As such, there is nothing directly linking her to Lipolelo’s death.
’Maesaiah also told the court she fled to South Africa when police called her for questioning because of the gung-ho manner of the police raid on State House.
She says the manner in which police summoned her “was indicative of malice”.
These claims are contained in an affidavit that accompanied her bail application in the High Court last Wednesday, a few hours after Magistrate Nthabise Moopisa had remanded her in custody.
Acting Chief Justice, ’Maseforo Mahase eventually released ’Maesaiah on M1000 bail without Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) being given the opportunity to reply to the bail application.
’Maesaiah said she did not trust the police owing to the manner of the summons and feared for her safety.
She took offence with the fact that her guards were recalled and said all of a sudden a “battalion of police” was sent to State House, armed with a warrant of arrest.
The First Lady argues that the warrant for her arrest was irregularly sought and granted and hence the decision to challenge it in court. She claims that she is not a flight risk but says that her running away from police despite a warrant for arrest was only to avoid the inhuman treatment she would get from police.
“Your petitioner avers that she is not a flight risk but that her conduct, following the issuance of the warrant of arrest, was not meant to evade the ends of justice but to avoid inhuman treatment which was visible in the manner in which she was called.
She added: “…there was no need for the Commissioner of Police to have recalled her guards, there was no need that she had to be sought by such a battalion of police.”
Police said ’Maesaiah’s guards were withdrawn so that police who had come to arrest her, would not clash with the guards.
’Maesaiah also claims that she has always been ready to be called to court and face her charges than being called by the police.
She was only charged seven weeks after her disappearance.
Her lawyer, Advocate Retahabile Setlojoane handed her to the police on Tuesday last week and she was subsequently charged the following day before being freed on bail.
Despite ’Maesaiah’s claim of innocence, police and her husband’s grandson, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane Jnr have accused her of hiring hitmen to kill innocent people.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) & Head of Criminal Investigations, Paseka Mokete says ’Maesaiah is a very dangerous person who is capable of recruiting people to kill innocent people for her own benefit.
Mokete said the Prime Minister’s wife is also a friend to very dangerous famo music gangs “who are fond of killing any person irrespective of reasons”.
DCP Mokete said if Maesaiah does not wait for her case in detention, witnesses in the case against her are at risk and that her co-accused are likely to resist lawful arrest.
Mokete’s allegations are contained in his affidavit supporting an application by Lipolelo’s family challenging Justice Mahase’s decision to release ’Maesaiah on bail.
“The remaining co-accused who are not arrested are likely to resist lawful arrest and fight the police as ’Maesaiah is very influential to instigate people to disobey the law,” he said.
Mokete further stated: “’Maesaiah Thabane now knows the seriousness of the crime she is facing before the High Court of Lesotho which carries the death penalty and as such it is highly unlikely that she will stand trial. Maesaiah is likely to abuse her bail conditions, if she flees the country ’Maesaiah is likely to get financial assistance from ministers and businessmen who helped her while she fled the questioning on the 10 January 2020.”
For his part, Thabane Jnr said: “The accused (Maesaiah) is clearly an extremely dangerous person with an evident mercurial character and with a propensity to engage assassins and gangsters of the famo music in order to meet her ends.”
Thabane said ’Maesaiah enjoys the status of being a spouse to the sitting Prime Minister and thereby enjoys the shield of the institutions of government making her not only powerful but dangerous as well.
According to Thabane Jnr ’Maesaiah poses a threat to all those who bear the potential of testifying against her in the murder and attempted murder charges she is currently facing.
“Her release, irrespective of her status, undermines the justice system of Lesotho and the rule of law especially when having regard to the circumstances leading to her release,” Thabane Jnr said.
Thabane Jnr, Lipoleleo’s two nephews – Khauhelo Molapo and Thato Makhooane as well Lipolelo’s friend, Thato Sibolla who was with Lipolelo when she was killed have petitioned the Court of Appeal to overturn Justice Mahase’s decision to grant ’Maesiah bail.
They have asked the Court of Appeal to order that ’Maesaiah be locked up while the High Court deals with the murder and attempted murder charges she is facing. They also want the court to nullify last Wednesday’s proceedings before Justice Mahase which gave birth to the order for her release from custody.
In the application, Sibolla tells the court that she is now living in fear after learning that ’Maesaiah is a suspect and was out on bail.
“I wish to inform the court that upon learning that the 2nd respondent (’Maesaiah) is suspect in the case and knowing the depth of her institutional power and the manner in which we were accosted and shot at, I immediately resolved to flee from this country for my safety and left for the Republic of South Africa where I am based.”
Sibolla also said she believed that by virtue of being an eyewitness and main victim, she should have been consulted by the prosecution.
“The 2nd respondent is the suspect in this murder case and she has been charged accordingly, I learnt through media reports that the 2nd respondent has been arrested on suspicion that she was part of the conspiracy behind my attempted murder and murder of my deceased friend Lipolelo Thabane. I reasonably believed that being an eyewitness and main victim I would be consulted by the prosecution when a petition for bail is moved.”
Sibolla added: “I wish to state that the pain that I went through both emotionally and physically was and remains unbearable and cannot be cured by anything other than justice. We suspected that the death of the deceased and the attack which was staged against myself and the deceased was planned and arranged by enemies who by then were unknown. Eventually, we got to establish who the suspects in the murder and attempted murder case in which I became casualty are. Ever since that attack and gruesome murder of my friend, I have been living in constant fear for my life mainly because I harboured the view that the executors of the murder were unknown and the motives behind it were unknown.”
As interim reliefs, the complainants have asked the Appeal Court to stay Justice Mahase’s order and that Magistrate Moopisa’s order that Maesaiah be remanded in custody should be reinstated.
Their lawyer, Attorney Koili Ndebele also asked the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Advocate Mosito Rabotsoa to enroll their case as an urgent matter. Ndebele yesterday wrote to Rabotsoa stressing the need to enroll their case in the interest of justice.
Ndebele said ’Maesaiah’s bail petition in the High Court was treated as urgent and therefore the same urgency continues to exist especially in the circumstances whereby his clients were not given a chance to stage their evidence.
“The petition was brought on an urgent basis and was treated as such; as a result, judgment in the court a quo was delivered on the very basis of urgency. Such urgency continues to exist especially in the circumstances where the applicants herewith were never given an opportunity to stage their evidence in opposition to the relief sought by the wife of the Prime Minister.
“The applicants are seeking to review the propriety or otherwise of the manner in which the proceedings in the court a quo were conducted. The crown was never given an opportunity to present its case and let alone to allow the applicants herewith to stage their protestations. The applicants and most particularly the survivor of the attempted murder are very unsafe and continue to feel unsafe and it is in the interest of justice that they enjoy the protection and sanction of the law, particularly the judicial system as soon as may be practically possible.”
He concluded: “We therefore request that this matter be enrolled as an urgent review and to be determined by this Honourable court. This case is not an ordinary run of the mill case; it is a case of grave national importance because it implicates the wife of a sitting Head of Government (PM) in a heinous crime of murder. The public interest that this case evokes requires and demands prompt judicial redress.”