Lipolelo murder trial delay: Molibeli, Mokete blame DPP
- police bosses baffled by DPP’s failure to act despite “water-tight case” against Thabane.
POLICE Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete, say they are “baffled” why the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane has still not charged former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane with the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
They say the failure to charge Mr Thabane, more than a year since Commissioner Molibeli sensationally revealed that former premier and his current wife were prime suspects, is despite that the police have played their part in building a “water-tight” case against him.
Sunday 10 January 2021 marked exactly a year since a warrant of arrest was issued for Mr Thabane’s current wife, ‘Maesaiah, who had fled the country only to be arrested on her return and charged with Lipolelo’s murder. She was initially charged on 5 February 2020 and remains out on bail without a day fixed for her next court appearance.
On the other hand, Mr Thabane- the first sitting premier in the history of this country to be accused of murder- is yet to appear in court to be formally charged over the murder allegations.
Mr Thabane had initially argued that he could not be charged while still in office and was even granted leave by the Maseru Magistrates’ Court to petition the Constitutional Court over the matter.
The argument is nevertheless no longer valid after he was forced to step down in May 2020 by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) in favour of the current incumbent, Moeketsi Majoro.
Shortly after ‘Maesaiah was granted bail in June 2020, DCP Mokete stated that Mr Thabane would also be arrested and tried alongside his wife.
On 6 July 2020, Mr Thabane even addressed a press conference at his Hillsview, Maseru home where he told his supporters he expected to appear in court the next day
The scheduled appearance was however, aborted at the last minute. At the time, DCP Mokete told this publication that the police were “tying up loose ends” before taking the former premier to court.
“We anticipate that he (Thabane) is likely to raise some points of law and we are trying to guard against those,” DCP Mokete said.
“Last time he was supposed to appear in court he raised some technicalities so we do not want to be caught off guard. He will ultimately appear in court and be officially charged,” DCP Mokete added.
However, some police sources alleged that Mr Thabane had not been arrested on the orders of the government which feared a backlash from his supporters in the ABC.
Back in July 2020, some senior ABC officials including former cabinet minister and current Qoaling legislator, Chalane Phori, publicly threatened to topple the Majoro administration if Mr Thabane is arrested and charged alongside ‘Maesaiah.
They threatened to “expose” Dr Majoro’s own “dirty secrets” if the latter did not give in to their demands to have the murder charges against Mr Thabane dropped.
The police sources later told this publication that the Majoro administration had given in to the Thabane loyalists’ demands by ordering the police not to arrest Mr Thabane. The Thabane couple was supposed to be charged with others including the now deceased popular Famo musician and political activist, Mosotho Chakela (real name Rethabile Mokete) who died last week in South Africa.
This week, both Commissioner Molibeli and DCP Mokete told this publication that the police had done their work and they could not understand why the DPP still had not charged Mr Thabane.
Asked if any political pressure had been brought to bear on the police not to touch Mr Thabane, DCP Mokete said, “Despite that Chakela has passed on, the matter has been forgotten or abandoned. We are still going to go after the other suspects.
“The only hurdle we are having is the delay by the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
“We have submitted all our papers and everything is orderly and we don’t know what the hold- up is all about. We are sure that we have a water tight case against all the people who were mentioned as suspects,” DCP Mokete said.
On his part, Commissioner Molibeli said the matter was out of their hands as they had submitted all the relevant files to the DPP.
“We have since submitted all the relevant paperwork to the office of the DPP and we don’t know what is causing the delay,” Commissioner Molibeli told the Lesotho Times.
DPP Motinyane could not be reached for comment.
However, one of the prosecutors in the DPP’s office who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity denied that there had been any political pressure to stop the prosecution.
He said the delay in prosecuting the case had been caused by DCP Mokete’s delay in submitting additional information pertaining to the case which had been requested by DPP Motinyane.
Meanwhile, the ABC has denied pressuring the government and the DPP to stop the prosecution of Mr Thabane.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa said, “we have not had any say or influence in what happens to Ntate Thabane or anyone else pertaining to this murder case”.
“We are not placed to influence the courts of law in the miscarriage of justice. Our stance has always been clear that if Ntate Thabane is a suspect, he should be prosecuted,” said Mr Masoetsa.
ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, concurred saying, “we have no business meddling with the courts of law. Let justice take its course”.