TEBOHO KHATEBE MOLEFI
MASERU – Former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane faces arrest to answer a charge of the murder of his estranged wife Lipolelo, police said last night. Lipolelo, Thabane’s second wife, was in 2017 waylaid and shot dead near her home at Ha ’Masana on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, two days before his inauguration as prime minister. His 43-year-old third wife, ’Maesaiah, is the prime suspect in the high profile murder case that has seen her thrown into jail following the revocation of her bail by the Court of Appeal of Lesotho on June 3.
She had been controversially granted bail in February by the Acting Chief Justice, ’Maseforo Mahase. Police on January 22 asked Thabane to present himself for questioning at the police headquarters in Maseru, in relation to ongoing investigations on Lipolelo’s murder. He ignored the invitation. Police then moved to try to conduct the interview at his prime ministerial offices at Qhobosheaneng through the intervention of Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli. That effort similarly hit a snag. A month later, on February 24, Thabane presented himself before the Maseru Magistrate Court where he sought and was granted leave to file a constitutional challenge arguing as a sitting prime minister he enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
The application has, however, not yet been lodged with the Constitutional Court since then. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) now argue since Thabane resigned as prime minister on May 19, the challenge has become disputable, and this paper has learnt that the police investigating team wants to finalise the matter and are consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, to that effect. In an exclusive interview with Public Eye yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, said all loose ends around the case have been tied and the former premier’s arrest and prosecution can proceed any time from now.
“Actually, even as soon as next week we can set the process in motion for his arrest and appearance before court; everything has been completed. “It’s just that I cannot put a specific date for his arrest because the DPP’s hands are presently full with the ongoing bail application of the former First Lady and we have to wrap that one up first before we haul the former prime minister to court,” said DCP Mokete, who also leads the investigating team in the murder case. Maesaiah has renewed her bid for freedom by claiming her husband is critically ill and only her, the wife, is best suited to wait on him.
The claim was rebutted by Thabane’s grandson and namesake Thomas Thabane Junior, along with Thato Sibolla, Lipolelo’s friend who was also shot on the fateful day but survived. In an affidavit seeking to block Maesaiah’s renewed bid to secure bail, the pair insist the former First Lady is lying about Tabane’s health condition. The duo have asked the court to allow them to file papers to prove ’Maesaiah lied. However, DCP Mokete noted the former Prime Minister’s imminent arrest and prosecution had to be done as soon as possible. The allegations played a huge part in bringing his premiership to an end two years prematurely after partners in the previous coalition withdrew their support in parliament. The 81-year-old Thabane insisted he wanted to retire anyway because of his advanced age.
Damning allegations of his conspiracy to eliminate his estranged wife in cahoots with his current wife, Maesiah now in custody awaiting trial after his bail was revoked, keep surfacing and building up. A police affidavit before court reveals allegations Thabane and Maesaiah promised to pay Lipolelo’s killers M3 million for the hit, all in a bid to stop the late Lipolelo from claiming the position of First Lady since their marriage was yet to be dissolved by court.
The allegations further state the Thabanes are yet to settle the balance in the alleged contract murder, having only paid M400 000 so far. Asked about the possibility of the police case falling through if Thabane invokes the SADC MoU Clause 10 that dissuades the prosecution of the political party leaders during this time that the country is in the process of national reforms, Mokete was quick to state that the SADC document had no bearing at all on the eventual prosecution of the former premier.
“That clause has nothing to do with prosecution processes of this country; according to the law here it is the DPP who decides who and when to prosecute an individual and if and when she decides to prosecute she will,” he said. The SADC-sponsored MoU Clause 10 was equally deemed ineffectual by the courts of Lesotho in an earlier challenge by Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, when he faced legal challenges upon his return from exile.
Metsing and Movement for Economic Change leader Selibe Mochoboroane face treason charges alongside former army boss, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane for their involvement in the August 30, 2014, attempted coup. Their prosecution has been discouraged by SADC, with a March 29 letter to then Prime Minister from SADC envoy, Justice Digkang Moseneke, advising Thabane against disregarding the government-opposition agreement not to prosecute all politicians until after the national reforms. DPP Motinyane has publicly dismissed the SADC call, arguing it undermined her independence as contained in the Constitution of Lesotho.
DCP Mokete also told this paper the police think it is a waste of time that Metsing and Mochoboroane remain bent on avoiding a day in court basing their argument on the SADC political arrangement, adding it would be futile for Thabane to even consider triggering the same clause. “Why are they wasting their time? I understand now they are even raising issues like waiting for the new government to consider its position with regard to prosecuting them. “In Lesotho the executive does not prosecute, the police investigate . . . present a case before the DPP and the DPP prosecutes. “These people should stop wasting our and the court’s time; they should go to court and answer charges confronting them,” Mokete said.