Lipolelo Thabane murder probe stalls

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

INVESTIGATIONS into the June 2017 assassination of former First Lady Lipolelo Thabane have encountered some challenges with Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi saying “the leads have gone cold”.

Mr Makgothi was part of the government team which briefed regional leaders on the progress of the investigations at the SADC summit in Luanda, Angola in April this year. The government told the SADC leaders that it has discovered some leads on the body of Ms Thabane and on her companion who was injured in the shooting incident.

But in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Makgothi said the investigations had stalled as the trail had gone cold.  He however, would not say what challenges had been encountered. He said despite the hiccups the cabinet had been assured that the case remained on the police’s priority list of murder investigations.

Ms Thabane was shot dead by an unknown assailant as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.

A female companion of Ms Thabane also sustained serious injuries in the shooting.

Commenting on the case this week, Mr Makgothi said “as far as the case of former First Lady is concerned, the trail leading towards it has gone cold”.

“The police have devised other means of speeding up the process.  However, cabinet was assured that it is still in the priority list of murder cases that are being investigated by the LMPS,” added Mr Makgothi.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli yesterday said investigations were still ongoing.

“Investigations are still on-going and hiccups are experienced in almost all cases which are being investigated,” Supt Mopeli said.

He however, refused to provide further details on what hiccups had been encountered in the investigations.

According to the government report to SADC in April, a special team was set up on 16 June 2017 to investigate murder and the attempted murder.

“The team (of investigators) has conducted interviews with individuals, friends, relatives and possible witnesses.  A post-mortem was also carried out and a ‘lead’ was discovered from the deceased body and was also submitted to the ballistics. Another ‘lead’ was discovered from the lady (Ms Sibolla) while she was hospitalised and was also submitted to the ballistics. Investigations are on-going,” the government said in its report.

More recently in September, the former SADC Oversight Committee chairperson, Matias Matondo said the SADC Oversight Committee and the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAMPIL) knew what transpired in the assassination of Ms Thabane.

“We assisted the LMPS in the investigation of high-profile assassinations that took place in the country. Our assistance is in terms of exhibit and forensic analysis and that is crucial because we want to get to the bottom of what really happened in this country. This is also part of our mandate to participate in the investigations.

“Some of these issues are sensitive but we are talking about the LDF commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo who have been assassinated and others. The (former) First Lady is one of those cases that are so sensitive that we have been assisting our colleagues to investigate.

“Those issues are so sensitive that although we do not publish their results we actually know what happened. We worked alongside our LMPS colleagues, we took all the evidence at the crime scenes, and we have all the exhibits. There are certain things that the SAMPIL has been doing on the ground that are not for public consumption.”

Dr Matondo said although they knew what transpired in those cases, it was however, premature to reveal details at this stage.

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