Explosive disclosures on Lipolelo murder
Thabane, ‘Maesaiah promised Lipolelo’s killers M3 million- police
…as well as jobs in the government for executing the murder
Pascalinah Kabi | Mohalenyane Phakela
FORMER Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah, 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. Mr Sello has since turned state witness. He is now the source of the explosive disclosures typical of a Hollywood crime thriller.
To date, Mr Thabane and ‘Maesaiah have allegedly paid the killers M400 000. They had not paid the outstanding balance when the allegations against them blew up earlier this year. The assassins had also been promised employment in the government.
These and other explosive details on Lipolelo’s tragic murder are contained in papers filed at the High Court this week by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete in opposition to ‘Maesaiah’s bail bid.
‘Maesaiah is in remand prison after the court of appeal revoked her bail on June 3 2020 over her alleged role in Lipolelo’s killing.
She has also been charged with the attempted murder of Thato Sibolla, with whom Lipolelo had been travelling, when she was gunned down in cold blood at Ha-’Masana, Maseru. Ms Sibolla sustained some injuries in the incident on 14 June 2017, just two days before Mr Thabane’s inauguration for his second stint as premier.
Lipolelo and Mr Thabane had been involved in an acrimonious divorce. The courts had upheld Lipolelo’s claim to as the real First Lady.
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.
But Mr Thabane is yet to file the said application. Even if opts to proceed, it would be for academic purposes only after his ouster from office last month.
It remains to be seen when he will be charged alongside his wife. This week, DCP Mokete promised it will be soon because there “were no longer any impediments” to his trial. Chakela and others are yet to appear in court as they are believed to be in hiding in South Africa. DCP Mokete says there is nonetheless adequate evidence to proceed with the Thabanes’ trial without them.
‘Maesaiah was initially granted bail by Acting Chief Justice Maseforo Mahase on 5 February 2020. She was sent to Maseru Central Prison last week after the Court of Appeal ruled that her bail had been unprocedurally granted. The apex court also said Justice Mahase did not take into account the seriousness of the crimes ‘Maesaiah is accused of, among a litany of other misjudgments.
The 29 May 2020 apex court judgement was handed down after Ms Sibolla teamed up with Mr Thabane’s grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr and two of the former premier’s nephews to oppose it.
‘Maesaiah’s fresh bail application failed to proceed yesterday after High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo resolved to postpone it to 16 June 2020 to allow all the opposing papers to be filed.
Adv Motinyane, Thomas Thabane Jr, Thato Sibolla are cited as first to third respondents respectively in the ex-first lady’s bail application.
DCP Mokete has already filed his opposing affidavit containing the sensational and chilling details surrounding the ultimately successful plot to assassinate Lipolelo.
In his affidavit, DCP Mokete says Lipolelo and ‘Maesaiah had an acrimonious relationship and the latter had even intimated that she would like to “get rid of the deceased”.
He says prior to the June 2017 snap elections, which ushered in Mr Thabane back to power, the ex-premier and ‘Maesaiah held a meeting with Chakela and the crown witness, Sello (popularly known as Lehlanya) in Ficksburg, South Africa. He says it was at that meeting that Chakela was hired to kill Lipolelo to stop her from becoming first lady in the event of Mr Thabane winning the elections and becoming prime minister. The Thabanes had lived in exile in Ficksburg after they fled Lesotho in 2015 amidst the country’s political tensions.
During his first stint as premier from 2012 to 2015, Mr Thabane had tried to divorce Lipolelo but the courts had ruled that she was the rightful first lady entitled to enjoy all the benefits of that office until the divorce was finalised. The divorce case had dragged and had still not been finalised on the eve of Mr Thabane’s return to power in June 2017. Mr Thabane’s only hope of marrying his new love and catapult her to the benefits of first lady could then only happen if Lipolelo was taken out, DCP Mokete alleged. A divorce can happen automatically, by operation of law, if one of the spouses to a marriage dies.
‘Maesaiah, Mr Thabane, Chakela, Seabata Sello, Macheli Koeshe and Molefi Matima are the first to sixth suspects respectively in the Lipolelo murder.
“Before the 3 June 2017 elections, the petitioner (‘Maesaiah) and the second suspect (Mr Thabane) met with the third suspect (Mr Mokete) and a crown witness (Lehlanya) at the residence they (Thabane and wife) shared in Ficksburg, South Africa,” DCP Mokete states in his affidavit.
“There the second suspect and the petitioner informed them that the second suspect (Mr Thabane) was required to return to Lesotho to be the Prime Minister.”
DCP Mokete states that Chakela and Lehlanya were further informed that Mr Thabane’s divorce from Lipolelo had not been finalised and that the latter would thus assume the position of first lady of Lesotho after Mr Thabane’s expected win on 3 June 2019 and inauguration as prime minister.
“The petitioner (‘Maesaiah) and second suspect (Mr Thabane) wanted the deceased dead so that the petitioner could assume the position of first lady.
“They (Chakela and Lehlanya) would be remunerated in cash (approximately M3 million) and through employment opportunities, should they carry out the murder of the deceased prior to second accused’s (Thabane) inauguration as prime minister.
“The third suspect (Chakela) and witness (Lehlanya) subsequently agreed to kill the deceased prior to the inauguration of the second suspect as prime minister,” DCP Mokete states.
He adds that thereafter Messrs Sello, Koeshe and Matima then traced and monitored Lipolelo’s movements. He said Mr Thabane even assisted the assassins by physically pointing out Lipolelo’s Ha Masana residence to them.
“Prime Minister Thabane physically pointed out the residence of the deceased to his co-accused.
“On 12 June 2017, suspects 3, 4, 5 and 6 (Mokete, Sello, Koeshe and Matima) went to the residence of the deceased at Ha Masana, Maseru, to carry out the mission to kill her. But they were unsuccessful in the execution of their plan and had to flee the scene. This incident was reported at Maseru Rural Headquarters Police Station and was given reference number RCI 19/06/2017.”
DCP Mokete says the suspects went back to Ha Masana two days later on the 14th of June 2017 in a bid to accomplish the mission of killing Lipolelo. This was just two days before Mr Thabane’s inauguration for his second stint as premier. DCP Mokete states that prior to the Lipolelo murder on 14 June 2017, ‘Maesaiah had met Lehlanya in Ficksburg. The meeting was necessitated by Lipolelo who had asked Lehlanya to mediate between her and ‘Maesaiah as they were not in good terms.
“The petitioner (‘Maesaiah) agreed to the mediation, subject to the crown witness (Lehlanya) engaging with her and the deceased separately due to their acrimonious relationship. From the meeting with the petitioner in Ficksburg, the state witness met with the deceased and Thato Sibolla in Ladybrand,” DCP Mokete states.
He says ‘Maesaiah was aware that Lehlanya would be meeting Lipolelo in Ladybrand.
After the meeting with Lehlanya, DCP Mokete says Lipolelo and Ms Sibolla returned to Lesotho. He said Lipolelo was driving her vehicle, a silver grey Corsa, whilst Ms Sibolla sat in the front passenger’s seat.
“Whilst approaching her (Lipolelo’s) residence at Ha Masana, Maseru, multiple gunshots were fired at them. The deceased died on the scene, having sustained multiple gunshots. Ms Sibolla sustained a gunshot injury below her right armpit and had to be hospitalised for numerous days.
“On or about 17 June 2017, the second suspect (Mr Thabane) was inaugurated as the prime minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho. On or about 27 August 2017, approximately two-and-a-half-months later, the petitioner (‘Maesaiah) and the second suspect entered into marriage as there was no longer any obstacle in their way. The petitioner then became the first lady by virtue of her marriage to the second suspect.
“The petitioner initially paid suspect 3 (Chakela) M50 000 and suspect 4 (Sello) M20 000. The petitioner also paid witness (Lehlanya) M30 000 and he was further rewarded by being employed as driver to a cabinet Minister (former Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mampho Mokhele) after the death of the deceased.
“Suspect 3, 4, 5 and 6, who are members of the infamous Famo gang, notorious for displaying violence and for brutal killings, became aggrieved due to not being sufficiently remunerated by the petitioner and second suspect.
“As a result, during late 2018 or early 2019, the second suspect (Mr Thabane) paid suspects 3, 4, 5 and 6 another M300 000 and they expressed their extreme displeasure with the above amount which they believed to be too little.
“The case against the petitioner and her co- accused is strong. I however categorically state that the prosecution of the petitioner is not dependent on the presence or absence of any of her co-accused. All crown witnesses have confirmed their availability to testify against the petitioner and her co-accused,” DCP Mokete says.
In his supporting affidavit, Lehlanya describes ‘Maesaiah as a powerful individual who is capable of using her financial muscle to obtain whatever she wants.
“I aver that during 2012 to 2015 coalition government, I was once approached by the petitioner to assist her to get her former husband (Joachim Ferreira) killed so she could be married to the present husband, Thabane. However, I did not carry on with the mandate but I was given M10 000 in advance by the petitioner.
“I aver that the petitioner participated in the murder of Lipolelo Thabane and also bribed many people who tried to divulge her involvement in the case whose names I wish to withhold for their security…,” Lehlanya states in his affidavit.
“I aver that after it appeared on social media that I am a witness in the Lipolelo Thabane’s murder case, I received numerous anonymous calls and audio clips threatening me for having implicated the petitioner and her co-perpetrators.
“I aver that the petitioner is a very dangerous person as she is a friend to the co-perpetrators in the Lipolelo Thabane’s murder case who she meets frequently. They call each other and they are capable of eliminating whoever comes in their way,” Lehlanya says.
He says that he knows about ‘Maesaiah’s criminal dealings because he had been part of the infamous Famo group known as Terene which the ex-first lady had used for her nefarious activities. He had been a friend to the former first lady, he claims.
Lehlanya says he fears for his life and it would be impossible for him to testify against ‘Maesaiah should she be granted bail.
“I also fear for lives of other members of my family. Not long ago my brother was killed and I received a call from an anonymous person to go and collect his corpse.
“My son has also received threats on various occasions. All these started after it was disclosed on the social media that I am a crown witness.
“I therefore make this affidavit in support of the Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete’s answering affidavit regarding the bail petition,” Lehlanya concludes.