- as DCP accuses DPP of shielding Thabane and ‘Maesaiah from prosecution.
- demands her recusal from prosecuting the Thabanes’
DEPUTY Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete has fired another broadside at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, accusing her of shielding former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah, from prosecution.
The duo is accused of murdering Mr Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo, in June 2017. They are also accused of the attempted murder of Lipolelo’s friend, Thato Sibolla, who sustained injuries in the shooting that claimed Lipolelo’s life. Adv Motinyane is prosecuting the case in her role as DPP but DCP Mokete says she is “frustrating” police efforts to have the duo tried in court.
DCP Mokete, who leads the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), is adamant that Adv Motinyane is “compromised”. He accuses her of “working with the suspect (‘Maesaiah) …and I fear she (Adv Motinyane) will not prosecute the case properly and impartially”.
He says he is thus demanding Adv Motinyane’s recusal from the case in favour of one of her subordinates who can do a better job in the interests of justice. He said his efforts to get Attorney General Haae Phoofolo to intervene in the matter had hit a brick wall after the latter said he had no powers to tell Adv Motinyane what to do. He said he was now pinning his hopes on the appointment of a new law and justice minister to “discipline” Adv Motinyane. Interestingly, All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader and long-time Thabane nemesis, Professor Nqosa Mahao, is expected to be appointed to the portfolio anytime this week after processes to first appoint him to the senate have been finalised. Prof Mahao is currently not in any of parliament’s two houses – the National Assembly or the Senate – a requirement for appointment to a cabinet post.
Adv Motinyane did not respond to calls to her mobile phone and messages requesting her to comment on DCP Mokete’s allegations this week.
‘Maesaiah is currently out on bail after being charged in the magistrates’ court with Lipolelo’s murder on 5 February 2020. The bail was granted that same day in the High Court by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase. DCP Mokete insists this was done without any opposition from the state.
According to DCP Mokete, Adv Motinyane should have opposed the bail as she “is the police’s legal representative” in the criminal proceedings against the former first lady. He said ‘Maesaiah should have been locked up in custody to guarantee the safety of key witnesses like Ms Sibolla.
However, to the police’s utter dismay, Adv Motinyane not only failed to oppose the bail but went on to challenge a subsequent Court of Appeal application by Ms Sibolla and Mr Thabane’s own grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr to reverse the bail. Ms Sibolla Thabane Jr teamed up with former premier Thabane’s two nephews, Khauhelo Molapo and Thuto Makhooane, to challenge ‘Maesaiah’s bail and the apex court is expected to rule on the matter tomorrow. Thabane Jr is the son of Dr Thabane’s second son, Potlako Thabane.
DCP Mokete said the DPP should also have opposed Mr Thabane’s moves to file a Constitutional Court application to stop the courts from trying him for the murder while he was still in office.
Mr Thabane is yet to appear alongside ‘Maesaiah after he was on 26 February 2020 granted leave by Senior Resident Magistrate Phethise Motanyane to file a Constitutional Court application to stop the courts from trying him for the murder while he remained in office as premier. But Mr Thabane is yet to file the said application. Even if he does so now, it would be of mere academic interest after he was forced out of office by his own ABC party last week.
DCP Mokete says he is baffled that the Adv Motinyane still has not moved to prosecute the premier.
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He said Adv Motinyane’s failure to oppose the ‘Maesaiah bail and Mr Thabane’s Constitutional Court application had given him reason to believe the DPP was siding with the suspects. Therefore, she could not be trusted to prosecute the duo, he said.
“The DPP has frustrated the prosecution of this case from the onset as we struggled to get the indictment to enable us to take ‘Maesaiah to court on 5 February 2020,” DCP Mokete told the Lesotho Times in a no holds barred interview this week.
“We held a press conference on 4 February 2020 where we indicated that we had ‘Maesaiah in custody and what was left was for the DPP to give a greenlight to prosecute her.
“We were not given the opportunity to oppose ‘Maesaiah’s bail by Justice Mahase so we had asked the DPP to appeal that bail but up to today she has not done so. I had already prepared an affidavit to support her application opposing the bail and I ended up giving it to Ms Sibolla and her co-applicants to strengthen their Court of Appeal case against the granting of the bail.
“Justice Mahase did not oppose Ms Sibolla and others’ application to revoke the bail she granted ‘Maesaiah. But to our shock, the DPP opposed it and further asked the court to punish the applicants in the most severe way by dismissing their application with the highest costs.
“Mind you, Ms Sibolla is one of the witnesses in Ms Lipolelo’s murder case as an eye witness. She fled the country immediately after ‘Maesaiah was released on bail, saying she feared for her life. But the DPP has failed to protect her and has instead appealed against her challenge to ‘Maesaiah’s bail. How does she expect Ms Sibolla to confidently work with her in prosecuting ‘Maesaiah when she (DPP) is seen to be protecting the same suspect she is expected to prosecute?”
Apart from Mr Thabane and ‘Maesaiah, the police have also charged four others who are still at large and are believed to be hiding in South Africa. These are prominent Famo musician Mosotho Chakela (real name Rethabile Mokete), Seabata Sello, Molefi Matima and Macheli Koeshe.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times last month, Adv Motinyane blamed DCP Mokete for the delays in trying the suspects. She said DCP Mokete initially brought the murder docket to her office on 4 February 2020 and she had to leave it with her subordinates to prepare the charge sheet as she had to attend a workshop in South Africa.
She said upon her return she studied the docket with a view to decide who to charge and who to interview as state witnesses. She said before she had made her decision, DCP Mokete came for the docket saying he needed to add more evidence.
“The docket was initially brought to my office on 4 February 2020 and on that day, I had to attend a prosecutors’ workshop in Pretoria and DCP Mokete was persistent in that I prepare the charge sheet that same day. It has not been returned to me since then and my hands are tied.
“When a docket is brought to my office, I have to apply my mind because I cannot rely on the docket alone. I need to interview the witnesses in the presence of the investigating officers. However, I authorised my office to continue remanding the suspect (Ms Thabane).
“Within the same month of February, while I was still trying to familiarise myself with the case, DCP Mokete asked for the file to add more evidence, which I saw as a good thing as it would give more weight to our case. I need the docket back in order to prepare the final indictment,” Adv Motinyane said.
DCP Mokete this week confirmed that he had indeed taken the docket and still had it with him. He suggested that he had taken it to protect witnesses who could be exposed by the DPP who he said could no longer be trusted as she was allegedly working with the suspects. He however, insisted there was nothing stopping Adv Motinyane from prosecuting the suspects as the final charge sheet was prepared way back in February 2020.
“The DPP finalised the indictment on 20 February 2020 to charge all the suspects so I remain puzzled as to which indictment she says she needs to prepare. I still don’t understand why the former prime minister has not been charged. We asked the DPP to appeal against Senior Resident Magistrate Motanyane’s decision to grant Mr Thabane leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court but she did not do so yet the constitution is clear that it is only the King who is immune to prosecution.
“We also wanted to charge the High Court registrar (Advocate Mokhoema) who assisted ‘Maesaiah’s unprocedural bail application but our hands are tied because the DPP has been sitting on that case. The DPP states in her court papers (opposing Ms Sibolla and others application for the revocation of ‘Maesaiah’s bail) that ‘Maesaiah surrendered herself to the police. Where does she get that information when we have never said so to her? It is clear that she is working with the suspect (‘Maesaiah) and/or the suspect’s legal team.
“We have been questioning her conduct all along and I fear she will not prosecute the case properly and impartially. As much as prosecution is her sole responsibility, I think she has revealed where her loyalty lies. It is true I still have the docket with me and I need certain issues to be ironed out before I give it back to her. At the moment I feel our star witnesses will be exposed because she is working with the accused.
“I tried to get the Attorney General (Haae Phoofolo) to intervene but he told me that he does not have powers to tell the DPP what to do. I am currently waiting for the mew minister of law to be appointed to map the way forward. I do not trust the DPP anymore and I think it is wise that she instructs one of her juniors to take over the prosecution of the case because it is clear she is compromised,” DCP Mokete said.