More woes for ‘Maesaiah
- as more witnesses implicate her in Lipolelo murder
- they include her former employee who claims to have delivered money to pay the killers,
Mohalenyane Phakela | Pascalinah Kabi | ’Marafaele Mohloboli
IT never rains but pours for murder-accused former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane.
More witnesses, including her step daughter and a former employee, have come forward with more damning disclosures to persuade the courts to keep her in jail.
The damning disclosures include allegations by her former employee, ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo, who claims she was used as a courier by ‘Maesaiah to deliver money to pay the men who killed Lipolelo Thabane on 14 June 2017. ‘Maesaiah is accused of masterminding the killing of Lipolelo to pave her way to become the official First Lady. The courts had forestalled ‘Maesaiah aspirations for the plump office after ruling that Lipolelo was the rightful first lady until the finalisation of her divorce to Thomas Thabane. She then met her fate only two days before Mr Thabane’s inauguration.
Ms Mojakhomo, who was later employed as the director of ‘Maesaiah’s First Lady Trust Fund, alleges one of the men involved in Lipolelo’s murder, has since been killed himself as part of an elaborate plot by ‘Maesaiah to eliminate evidence.
Other damning disclosures in the riveting murder case are contained in more court affidavits filed by ‘Maesaiah’s step daughter Advocate ‘Mabatṧoeneng Hlaele (nee Nkoya Thabane) and Thato Sibolla. They are all part of spirited efforts by scared witnesses to stop the High Court from granting her bail. Ms Sibolla, with whom Lipolelo had been travelling on the day of the murder, survived the shooting that killed her friend. She remains adamant she will be killed if ‘Maesaiah is released on bail as she is a key witness. ‘Maesaiah has been charged with her attempted murder.
Advocate Hlaele also alleges a plot to kill her after she had implicated her step mother in Lipolelo’s murder.
The latest allegations follow hot on the heels of last week’s sensational court claims by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete that ‘Maesaiah and her husband Mr Thabane allegedly promised to pay Lipolelo’s killers a staggering M3 million to get the job done.
The killers are said to be prominent famo musicians Rethabile Mokete (popularly known as Chakela), Seabata Sello, Macheli Koeshe, Molefi Matima and Sarele Sello. Sarele Sello has since turned state witness and has been spilling the beans against the former first lady.
DCP Mokete is also opposing ‘Maesaiah’s bail application. The application was heard on Tuesday and Wednesday by Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo who reserved judgement to Monday 22 June 2020.
Mr Thabane has been charged with the same crimes but he 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 a sitting premier. DCP Mokete has said the police would now move against Mr Thabane as he is no longer prime minister after his party ousted him last month. Mr Thabane had in any event not yet filed that application.
‘Maesaiah has been detained at the Maseru Central Prison since 3 June 2020 after the Court of Appeal revoked the bail she had been controversially granted by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.
‘Maesaiah’s task of convincing the court to free her on bail got even harder this week after Adv Hlaele teamed up with Ms Sibolla and her former employee, Ms Mojakhomo, to file the fresh affidavits opposing her bail application.
Adv Hlaele is Mr Thabane’s daughter from his first marriage and a step-daughter to the deceased Lipolelo as well.
She has previously attacked ‘Maesaiah in the media and in audio recordings in connection with her roles in the Lipolelo murder and in frustrating Mr Thabane’s wishes to retire. In her court papers this week, Adv Hlaele said that she was at times forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats from unnamed people connected with ‘Maesaiah.
She said she had since engaged bodyguards for her own protection.
“Sometime in 2019 when I commenced staging a public rebuke against the petitioner (‘Maesaiah) and specifically asserting that she would be prosecuted for the atrocious murder of my late stepmother – Lipolelo Thabane – I received death threats from various sources … most of them were communicated via a WhatsApp medium,” Adv Hlaele states.
“A string of messages was sent telephonically and most of them were strictly asserting that I must desist from threatening the petitioner with prison. A few days after a voice clip in which I was warning and rebuking the petitioner went viral, I was advised by intelligence officers to seek refuge at an undisclosed place and I had to spent a few days at Rothe (on the outskirts of Maseru). The relationship between the petitioner and Famo gangs as stated by the affidavit of ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo is evident. She (‘Maesaiah) wielded and continues to wield a great deal of influence on dangerous gangs who at some point threatened me with death.”
Adv Hlaele also repeated accusations often levelled by current and former cabinet ministers that ‘Maesaiah usurped the running of the government from Mr Thabane and became the de facto prime minister before the latter stepped down last month.
“The fact that she (‘Maesaiah) was spouse to my father gravitated her into a strategic position of influence and as a result, (she became) the de facto leader of the government which my father led. I have witnessed several instances when she would hurl derogatory remarks against several cabinet ministers and threaten some of them with dismissals.
“This was the extent of her power and influence that she exerted with impunity and I dare suggest that she is the primary cause of the collapse of my father’s government and the resultant ridicule of my father and the party he leads. A majority of the government functionaries in powerful and strategic positions in government owe allegiance to her and there is clearly no doubt that if she is released, she has the capacity to ignite the manoeuvres aimed at eliminating her foes, myself included.
“I aver that following my strained relationship with the petitioner, I was forced to engage bodyguards who keep me and my family safe. I aver that Thato Sibolla, ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo and myself are not the only victims that endured her wrath,” Adv Hlaele further states.
But more damning disclosures are emanating from Ms Mojakhomo who was the director of the ‘Maesaiah National Trust Fund until her arrest on 29 May 2018 for allegedly defrauding the organisation of approximately M200 000. She disappeared from police custody under unclear circumstances after spending two nights at Police Headquarters in Maseru. In her affidavit, she states that she sought refuge in South Africa to escape the death threats from ‘Maesaiah.
She alleges that ‘Maesaiah often used her to deliver payment to Lipolelo’s killers and on more than five occasions “I gave money to one Thulo Motau who is now deceased”.
“He (Motau) was murdered. It was said that he is part of the people who were killed to bury the evidence (of Lipolelo’s killing) because dead men tell no tales,” Ms Mojakhomo alleges.
She alleges that on one occasion she helped herself to about M10 000 of the M65 000 she had been given by ‘Maesaiah to pay Motau for his part in the Lipolelo murder. She said she did this because she was not being paid anything for delivering the money.
“I aver that ‘Maesaiah got to know that I did not deliver the full amount of M65 000 to Thulo Motau. ‘Maesaiah then summoned me to her place at Makhoakhoeng. I aver that upon arrival she insulted and scolded me for the missing M10 000.
“She asked whether I knew how she got the status of the first lady of Lesotho. She asked whether I knew that Thulo was dangerous. It is then that she told me that she is paying for the murder of Lipolelo because Thulo and others were hired to kill Lipolelo.
“She went on to ask whether I wanted to die like Lipolelo,” Ms Mojakhomo states.
She further alleges that she was eventually arrested for taking some of the money meant for Lipolelo’s killers. She claims she only left police custody after the police handed her over to some people, she claims were supposed to kill her at ‘Maesaiah’s behest after she had informed the latter that she had recorded her while confessing to killing Lipolelo.
She, however, does not say how she escaped from those people and ended up in South Africa. She nonetheless promises to press charges against ‘Maesaiah and the police, including Assistant Commissioner Beleme Lebajoa, for attempted murder, kidnapping, defeating the ends of justice and the “murder of the child I was pregnant with that I lost through miscarriage while in unlawful detention”.
“Maesaiah Thabane has a lot of money. She is dangerous. She is not afraid of taking a life of another person if it may give her a benefit or please her heart. I aver that the lives of all witnesses in her case are in danger. I aver that if she is released on bail prior to conclusion of her trial the witnesses will die. I am still in South Africa for fear of my life. I support respondents in opposing her bail,” Ms Mojakhomo states.
On her part, Ms Sibolla alleges that she fled the country after being followed by vehicles without registration numbers. She said ‘Maesaiah had more reason to kill her to stop her from testifying as she survived the Lipolelo murder and was an eyewitness in the murder and attempted murder trial.
“I am a victim of this heinous crime which almost cost me my life. I was a friend to the deceased and bear witness to the horrific incident. The accused would be more than happy if I am not available to testify against her in the criminal proceedings because I am the most important eye-witness in his horrific incident.
“The deceased’s family and I are contemplating to institute civil claims against the petitioner over the incident that led to my injury and the attendant emotional shock that I endured throughout this ordeal. I have been warned that the petitioner has engaged assassins to kill me. Certain suspicious things, which forced me to flee my home country and live in a foreign country leaving my routine family life at a huge and burdensome cost are there for all to see.
“The evidence gathered by law enforcement officials as tabulated by Deputy Commissioner of Police (Mokete) clearly points towards the fact that there is a real likelihood that the accused has hired my killers (sic) and bears the potential of not only interfering with crown witnesses but that she has the propensity to kill in order to quell the impending criminal trial.
“It is also important to indicate that one of the most important accomplice witnesses by the name of Thulo Motau, who was also part of those who were hired to kill us was killed after he had decided to cooperate with the police in the investigations. I have a reasonable suspicion that he was killed at the instance of the petitioner,” Ms Sibolla states.