DPP savages Molibeli

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  • accuses police boss of gross ineptitude
  • says Nthane, Moramotse acquittals due to police incompetence.

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, has come out guns blazing, accusing Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli of gross incompetence leading to recent acquittals of high profile suspects accused of heinous crimes.

The DPP also launches a broadside at Mr Molibeli’s deputy, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete, saying he had worked in unison with his boss to sabotage crunch police probes.

She claims the two top cops had sabotaged the police’s initial investigations into the 14 June 2017 murder of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.  Mr Molibeli only sprung to action against Mr Thabane after the then premier had begun processes to fire him from the helm of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), the DPP states.

It is Commissioner Molibeli who had ironically fired the first salvo against DPP Motinyane, accusing her of trying to sabotage Mr Thabane and his wife, Maesaiah’s trial for the Lipolelo murder through her sudden decision to change prosecutors in the matter.

In his 9 June 2022 letter to Justice Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane, Mr Molibeli had alleged that the DPP’s decision to replace Advocate Shaun Abrahams with Gareth Leppan was squarely meant to sabotage the Thabanes trial and ensure their acquittal in the mould of the recent acquittals of several high profile suspects that the police boss blamed on Ms Motinyane’s “incompetence”.

Advocate Abrahams had already done a lot of work on the Lipolelo murder trial. Mr Molibeli thus questioned why he was now being replaced with a new prosecutor who had to start re-interviewing witnesses all over again.

But DPP Motinyane said there was nothing sinister in her decision to replace Advocate Abrahams as the Thabanes lead prosecutor. She said the decision had been prompted by the reality that Adv Abrahams was already seized with many other high profile matters.

The DPP then goes to accuse Mr Molibeli of being the one who had actually tried to sabotage the Thabanes prosecution in the first place.  After his appointment as police commissioner, shortly after Mr Thabane had been sworn in for his second stint as prime minister in 2017, Mr Molibeli had thrown spanners in the works of the Lipolelo murder investigations which were already underway under the leadership of Senior Inspector Mphelehetse Khatleli.

Commissioner Molibeli had then only made frantic efforts to have the investigations done when Mr Thabane sought to oust him in January 2020.

Her allegations are contained in her 21 June 2022 savingram to Commissioner Molibeli in response to the latter’s allegations against her in his 9 June 2022 correspondence to Law and Justice Minister Rakuoane. In his letter, the police boss decried DPP Motinyane’s decision to replace Mr Abrahams with Advocate Leppan, saying the decision was wholly unacceptable and “shocking”.

Adv Leppan was seeking to re-interview state witnesses as well as undo all other preparatory work that had been done by Adv Abrahams, the police boss alleged.

Besides being an unnecessary waste of valuable time and resources, Commissioner Molibeli said re-interviewing the witnesses was likely to endanger their lives due to the “nature of the case in question and the weight of evidence they carry with them”.

Equally, if not more important, the police boss suggested that the removal of Adv Abrahams was being done to ensure that the state presents a shoddy case which will lead to the Thabanes’ acquittal like what happened in other recent high-profile trials such as those of business mogul, Tšeliso Nthane, and Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs Minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse’s son, Thabo Moramotse. Mr Nthane was acquitted of charges of murdering his driver, Kopang Mohapi, in January 2019.

Mr Nthane was acquitted without even being put to his defence on the grounds that the prosecution had dismally failed to prove that he had a prima facie (on the face of it) case to answer.  This was despite the common knowledge that Mr Nthane  fired the bullet that killed Mr Mohapi and had immediately surrendered himself to the police.

Similarly, Thabo, who was accused of murdering his sister-in-law in 2016, was acquitted on the grounds that the Crown had failed to prove a prima facie case against him.

There was widespread criticism of the police over their failure to probe and present solid cases for prosecution against the likes of Nthane and Moramotse. But Commissioner Molibeli lays the blame for the acquittals on the DPP’s own “incompetence”.

He now wants Minister Rakuoane, to intervene and ensure that Adv Abrahams is brought back to prosecute the Thabanes’ long-delayed murder trial which is expected to begin on 26 July 2022.

“Once beaten, twice shy”, Commissioner Molibeli stated in his savingram to Adv Rakuoane.

He wrote his savingram at a time when he is fighting to save his job. This after he was, on 1 June 2022, served with a letter by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be dismissed over a plethora of charges including his incompetence and failure to tackle the thorny issue of police brutality against citizens.

He has petitioned both the High Court and Constitutional Court to stop Dr Majoro from advising His Majesty, King Letsie III to fire him. The matter is pending in both courts.

Incidentally, one of the charges against him is his failure to ensure that cases are properly investigated. (See stories on pages 6 and 7).

But if the embattled commissioner had thought his savingram to Adv Rakuoane, would redeem his reputation, he perhaps had not anticipated what was coming his way.

This after DPP Motinyane’s scathing letter questioning his pedigree as police boss and essentially stating that the commissioner is unfit for purpose.

In the no-holds-barred response, the DPP decries the fact that Commissioner Molibeli never engaged her over his concerns about the Lipolelo murder case before rushing to Adv Rakuoane.

She takes the opportunity to remind the police boss that her office is independent of the executive and any other branch of government.

“It is regrettable that you (Molibeli) resorted to penning the savingram to the Minister of Law, in which you expressed concerns in relation to the exercise of my legal and constitutional prerogatives and powers in retaining counsel to prosecute the murder of Lipolelo Thabane, as opposed to first engaging with me thereon, either verbally or in writing,” DPP Motinyane states in her savingram. It is copied to Dr Majoro and his deputy, Mathibeli Mokhothu, Adv Rakuoane, Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola and Attorney General Rapelang

Motsieloa.

“Our courts, including the Court of Appeal, have acknowledged my legal and constitutional prerogative and responsibilities, which I assert I have reasonably and rationally exercised herein. Our courts have further acknowledged that no one, including the executive and political office bearers, may usurp my responsibilities or influence my decisions.”

DPP Motinyane goes on to explain that she was forced to appoint Adv Leppan due to Adv Abrahams’ withdrawal from the Lipolelo murder trial as he was already seized with several other high-profile trials.

She also takes aim at Commissioner Molibeli for failing to raise his concerns with her and Adv Leppan over the latter’s plans to re-interview state witnesses.

“The decision to appoint Adv Leppan as Crown Counsel was due to the withdrawal from the matter by Adv Abrahams who is scheduled to be involved in already progressing high-profile part-heard trials emanating from the recommendations of the report of the (2016 SADC) Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry.

“Regrettably, the concerns raised by you were not, at any stage, raised by DCP Mokete (lead investigator of the Lipolelo murder case) with Adv Leppan, either before, during or after the scheduled consultations with witnesses earlier this month and came as an unpleasant surprise to both Adv Leppan and I,” charges DPP Motinyane.

Back in July 2020, authoritative police sources told the Lesotho Times that Commissioner Molibeli and some of his close lieutenants originally shielded the Thabanes from being investigated for the Lipolelo murder. They only made a U-turn and went after Mr Thabane after he launched a spirited bid to fire the police boss late in 2020, the sources said.

According to the sources, the probe had begun just two days after Lipolelo’s murder.

A team of six crack investigators was initially assembled by then Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa. It was led by Senior Inspector Mphelehetse Khatleli and reported to ACP Tebello Tšephe.

But Mr Thabane, who took over as prime minister just two days after Lipolelo’s gruesome murder, booted out Commissioner Letsoepa in August 2017 and in October, he installed his then “blue-eyed boy” Molibeli. Once in charge, Commissioner Molibeli allegedly began to throw spanners into the probe to protect the Thabanes, the sources said.

He allegedly sabotaged the probe by denying the investigators financial and material resources like airtime and cars they needed to travel and engage with potential witnesses and track all suspects.

The team of investigators was also whittled down to just four members and some like ACP Tšephe were transferred to Leribe, thus dealing the probe a huge setback.

According to the sources, this was one straightforward investigation that could have been wrapped up within a few months because “they were clear leads and motives for the murder”.

But this was not to be because Commissioner Molibeli was so determined to ensure that Mr Thabane would be spared the ignominy of being the first leader in the world to be charged with the murder of his own wife.

The probe would have gone permanently cold had it not been for the fallout between Commissioner Molibeli and Mr Thabane, the sources said.

Mr Thabane and Commissioner Molibeli are said to have fallen out over the ex-premier’s bid to oust the police boss. See: https://lestimes.com/how-police-botched-lipolelo-murder-probe/

And in her latest savingram, DPP Motinyane similarly accuses Commissioner Molibeli and DCP Mokete of frustrating the Lipolelo case, only to use it against Mr Thabane when the latter moved to fire Commissioner Molibeli in January 2020.

“I further find it curious and deeply disconcerting that you question my rationale for retaining the services of a new Crown counsel, when you changed the initial investigation team under the leadership of Senior Inspector Mphelehetse Khatleli who had been seized with the investigations into the death of Lipolelo Thabane since June 2017. It is only on 8 January 2020 that you directed Senior Insp Khatleli to handover the police investigation docket, after both you and DCP Mokete had frustrated Senior Insp Khatleli in the course and scope of the investigation days after your appointment as Acting Commissioner of Police in October 2017.

“Interviews with Senior Insp Khatleli and his team demonstrated both your and DCP Mokete’s egregious conduct, entirely unbecoming of persons holding the respective high offices that both you and DCP Mokete hold. I deliberately do not engage in the finer details of you and DCP Mokete’s egregious misconduct during the investigations into the death of Lipolelo herein, but remain available to submit a comprehensive report hereon to the relevant authorities.

“Investigations and interviews of witnesses have further revealed that you only developed a personal interest in the matter and decided to take it away from Senior Insp Khatleli and his team, knowing fully well that they had already identified suspects and had made significant progress in the investigation, despite you and DCP Mokete’s best efforts to frustrate the investigations, after you learned in late 2019 that then First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, had threatened to have both you and the then Minister of Police (‘Mamoipone Senauoane) dismissed.”

DPP Motinyane further alleges that both Commissioner Molibeli and DCP Mokete had been well aware that Mr Thabane’s mobile phone number had been in communication with one of the murder suspects on 14 June 2017 between 2pm and 2.15pm. This was a few hours before Lipolelo was gunned down at about 6pm.

“Yet you only elected to write to the (then) prime minister (Thabane) hereon, after you learned of your imminent dismissal,” DPP Motinyane states.

She savages Commissioner Molibeli for accusing her of failing to properly prosecute high-profile trials of business mogul Nthane and others, resulting in their acquittal.

Rather, the DPP insists that the acquittals are due to “inept police investigations” or the police “adopting constitutionally unacceptable practices in obtaining evidence”.

In any event, she has appealed against the acquittals of Mr Nthane and DCP Mokete, she adds. DCP Mokete was recently acquitted of charges of sexually assaulting his subordinate in 2020.

Despite taking no prisoners in her response to Commissioner Molibeli, the DPP nevertheless invites him to a meeting to iron out their differences.

“I invite you, along with the senior leadership of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, to bilateral discussions in finding lasting solutions to the many challenges faced in the criminal justice system and by our citizens in the Kingdom to give effect to enhancing and in strengthening cooperative governance and relations between our respective offices and in providing a more victim centric approach in the fight against crime in administering justice for all. (sic)

“I remain available and committed to a dialogue for the resolution of any disputes that are extant or which may in future arise that impact on the work of our respective offices and which impact the administration of justice,” DPP Motinyane states.

The beleaguered police boss must be wondering what has hit him and caused his world to come crumbling down. Prime Minister Majoro wants him the King to fire him for alleged incompetence including his failure to punish his subordinates who have been accused of brutality against civilians. Just last week, rogue officers demonstrated their propensity for violence and bloodletting by gunning down a helpless National University of Lesotho (NUL) student, Kopano Makutoane.

They wounded seven other students in the process. As if that was not enough, DPP Motinyane has just added to Commissioner Molibeli’s woes through her stinging rebuke of him.

 

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