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Appeal court blow for Thabane Jr, Sibolla

by Lesotho Times
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Mohalenyane Phakela

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane’s grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr and three others have been dealt a massive blow in their quest to have First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s bail revoked.

This after the Court of Appeal said it could not convene a special sitting to hear their application “due to logistical challenges”. The apex court has resolved to hear the appeal during its normal session on 21 April 2020.

‘Maesaiah stands accused of murdering Dr Thabane’s former wife, Lipolelo, on 14 June 2017. She is also accused of the attempted murder of Lipolelo’s friend, Thato Sibolla, who sustained injuries after she was shot at while travelling in the same car with Lipolelo on the night of her murder.

Shortly after being charged and remanded in custody by Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa on 5 February 2020, ‘Maesaiah was controversially granted bail by Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo Mahase, on the grounds that she needed to travel to South Africa for medical attention.

Her controversial bail was last week challenged by Thabane Jr, Lipolelo’s two nephews, Khauhelo Molapo and Thuto Makhooane, as well as Ms Sibolla.

The quartet petitioned the apex court to review and set aside Justice Mahase’s decision to grant ‘Maesaiah bail on the grounds that it was unprocedurally done. They argue that Justice Mahase should not have presided over the bail application in the first place.

Justice Mahase, Ms Thabane, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Attorney General (AG) Haae Phoofolo and the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli are the first to fifth respondents respectively in the apex court application.

The Court of Appeal normally has two sittings per year, first in April and another in October. However, the applicants’ want the matter to be heard urgently and last Wednesday, Thabane Jr’s lawyer, Attorney Koili Ndebele, wrote to the Court of Appeal Registrar demanding that their appeal be heard as matter of urgency.

“The applicants and most particularly the survivor of an attempted murder (Ms Sibolla) are very unsafe and continue to feel unsafe and it is in the interests of justice that they enjoy the protection and sanction of the law,” Attorney Ndebele wrote.

“The applicants are seeking to review the propriety of the manner in which the proceedings in the lower court (High Court) were conducted (by Justice Mahase). The crown was never given an opportunity to present its case and let alone to allow the applicants herewith to stage their protestations. We therefore request that this matter be enrolled as an urgent review and to be heard within a reasonable time to be determined by this 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 the sitting head of government in a heinous crime of murder. The public interest that this case evokes requires and demands prompt judicial redress.

“The international community and the world at large view this case with the highest level of circumspection and this is clearly a moment for us as a country to uplift the core ethics and values underpinned in the constitution of Lesotho as a sovereign state.”

Yesterday, the apex court’s Assistant Registrar, Advocate Mosito Rabotsoa, told the Lesotho Times that they could not convene the special sitting as requested by Thabane Jr and his co-appellants due to logistical challenges.

“We consider the application (by Thabane Jr and others) to convene a special sitting but we then realised that logistical issues would not allow us to have a sitting before April 2020,” Adv Rabotsoa said.

“The matter has now been included in the roll for the April session and is among the 26 which will be heard from 14 to 22 April 2020. It (appeal) will be heard on 21 April 2020. We are currently working on the logistics which include deciding how many judges will be coming for the April session.”

The Court of Appeal’s bench usually comprises of foreign judges from southern African countries such as Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with its president, Justice Kananelo Mosito being the only local judge.

The development means that ‘Maesaiah will remain free on bail at least until after the quartet’s appeal is heard on 21 April 2020. She appeared at the Maseru Magistrates’ Court for routine remand on Tuesday and she was ordered to return to the court on 17 March 2020.

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