THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, has accused Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete of persecuting murder accused former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane.
‘Maesaiah and her husband, former prime minister Thomas Thabane, are accused of murdering the former premier’s ex-wife, Lipolelo, in June 2017.
They are yet to stand trial in the High Court but DPP Motinyane alleges that DCP Mokete is already jeopardising the case by persecuting ‘Maesaiah through his comments about the case on various media platforms.
DPP Motinyane makes the allegations in her answering affidavit filed to oppose a Court of Appeal application by Mr Thabane’s grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr and others for the revocation of ‘Maesaiah’s bail.
‘Maesaiah was on 5 February 2020 charged with the murder of Lipolelo and attempted murder of Thato Sibolla who was travelling in the same vehicle with Lipolelo when she was gunned down in cold blood at Ha-Masana, Maseru. Ms Sibolla sustained some injuries in the incident which occurred just two days before Mr Thabane’s inauguration for his second stint as premier.
Shortly after being charged and remanded in custody by Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa on 5 February 2020, ‘Maesaiah was granted bail by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, under circumstances which have been deemed unprocedural by the police, Ms Sibolla and Mr Thabane’s own family.
Mr Thabane’s grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr, then teamed up with Ms Sibolla and others to oppose the bail.
Justice Mahase, ‘Maesaiah, DPP Motinyane, Attorney General Haae Phoofolo and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli are the first to fifth respondents respectively in the apex court application. The application is before the Court of Appeal bench comprising of presiding Judge Petrus Damaseb from Namibia, Justices Moses Chinhengo (Zimbabwe) and Johann Van Der Westhuizen (South Africa).
The case was heard on 20 May 2020 and judgement is expected to be delivered tomorrow.
DCP Mokete filed an affidavit in support of the applicants and he categorically states that ‘Maesaiah is not only a flight risk but is also a very dangerous person who could put the lives of the witnesses in danger if she is free on bail.
The police’s head of legal services, Senior Superintendent Mamello Ntsane, also filed a supporting affidavit. Snr Supt Ntsane alleges that ‘Maesaiah was unprocedurally granted bail because he and the DPP’s legal representatives were not given the opportunity to oppose her bail application.
The DPP opposes the application by Ms Sibolla and others, saying among other things, she had been misled by the applicants into believing ‘Maesaiah’s bail application would not be opposed.
She said she had been misled by the applicants into believing they had discussed the bail application with ‘Maesaiah’s lawyers and instead of challenging it, all she had to do was simply to expedite processes to formally charge ‘Maesaiah. She does not specifically say which of the applicants misled her.
DPP Motinyane states that Ms Sibolla and her co-applicants have no right to push for the prosecution of ‘Maesaiah because she has not declined to prosecute her.
She contends that DCP Mokete and Snr Insp Ntsane therefore have no business filing affidavits in support of Ms Sibolla and others’ application to revoke ‘Maesaiah’s bail.
“…The applicants have no right or authority to spearhead the said criminal proceedings as they seek to do herein, unless and until I decline to prosecute, which I have not done…,” Adv Motinyane states in her court papers.
She says if at all there was anything unprocedural about the granting of the bail, this should not be blamed on Justice Mahase but on DCP Mokete and Snr Insp Ntsane who failed to disclose any of their concerns about ‘Maesaiah in their docket on the Lipolelo murder.
She states that with the application to revoke the bail, “…it becomes blatantly clear and apparent that the applicants, accompanied by DCP Mokete and the legal advisor for the police, Snr Supt Ntsane, are playing partisan politics against the (former) prime minister and his wife (‘Maesaiah) and it is dangerous for court process to be abused to further parties’ interests and politicking”.
She also denies Snr Supt Ntsane’s claims that her office was not granted the opportunity to oppose ‘Maesaiah’s bail. She instead accuses DCP Mokete of compromising the case by disclosing confidential information.
“I was misled to believe that bail was not going to be opposed and they (applicants) had discussed this matter with second respondent’s (‘Maesaiah) legal representative, so much be that I should expedite the directive that the second respondent to be formally charged. I did so and in turn allocated and gave directive to Senior Crown Counsel (Mashapha) Letsie and his team.
“I wish to disclose that the crown took an advised decision after inquiry by the court to concede to the granting of the bail. It seems the police and the deponent(s) seem to think they can dictate and order my office as they so wish contrary to section 99(6) of the constitution.
“I have complained to the fifth respondent (Commissioner Molibeli) that Mokete’s outbursts and persecution of the second respondent (‘Maesaiah) are bound to compromise the criminal proceedings as he is all over the radio, print media, social media and television disclosing who the witnesses are yet investigations are not yet complete and castigating my office for delaying to prosecute.
“Mokete and his team of investigators took the docket from my office to continue with investigations and arrest other numerous suspects apparently. I therefore hold a firm view that it is this behaviour of Mokete that is putting the witnesses at risk.
In conclusion the bail proceedings were not flawed and…Mokete who is supposed to be my client, has never approached my office to complain and seek that I challenge the decision of the first respondent (Justice Mahase). What he does now is to sleep in the same bed with the applicants, demonstrating that he is no longer impartial and is going against his oath in office. Apart from my office, I am of the view that the fourth respondent (Adv Phoofolo)’s office should have been approached if at all Mokete felt aggrieved by me,” Adv Motinyane states.
In his replying affidavit DCP Mokete in turn accuses DPP Motinyane of siding with ‘Maesaiah.
“The DPP commences by attacking me and incidentally the institution of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service. I am accused of taking common cause with the applicants and being in breach of my oath of office. I will refrain to react to these propositions as they amount to value judgement and are highly subjective.
“It is both embarrassing and unfortunate for the prosecuting authority to openly attack the law enforcement authority in public without seeking administrative measures to address the issues of concern.
“Secondly, the DPP states that she was misled to believe the second respondent’s bail petition was not going to be opposed but does not disclose the person who misled her and what is perhaps striking is that her very own subordinate (Adv Letsie) says something that runs contrary where he states in categorical terms that he received a call from me (to oppose bail) which in fact is true.
“A close reading of the third respondent’s (DPP) affidavit reflects the thinking that she is effectively taking common cause with the accused person and indeed there are signals of collusion between the second and third respondents (‘Maesaiah and DPP Motinyane).
“One would expect the third respondent to file an objective position paper to clarify facts but not to oppose (the application challenging ‘Maesaiah’s bail). This is clearly unheard of in this jurisdiction for the prosecuting authority to rally support of the accused person in such a sensitive and delicate matter,” DCP Mokete says in his reply affidavit.