Thabane refutes Molibeli’s allegations

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Mohalenyane Phakela

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has said his spirited bid to oust Police Commissioner is solely motivated by the latter’s alleged incompetence and not by the selfish consideration of replacing him with a pliant commissioner who will stop investigations into the premier’s alleged involvement on the 14 June 2017 murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo.

Dr Thabane said this in his court papers filed in response to Commissioner Molibeli’s 12 January 2020 High Court application challenging the premier’s decision to recommend that His Majesty King Letsie III appoints Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Janki Hlaahla to succeed him as police chief.

Dr Thabane made the recommendation in his 10 January 2020 letter to King Letsie III and this prompted Commissioner Molibeli to launch a court application two days later for an order setting aside his removal and replacement by Assistant Commissioner Hlaahla.

In his court papers, Commissioner Molibeli accused Dr Thabane of seeking to get rid of him to avoid prosecution for Lipolelo’s murder, saying the investigations were almost complete and the net was closing in on Dr Thabane. He categorically states in his papers that Dr Thabane is a suspect in the murder of his Lipolelo. He further says that upon realising that “the noose is tightening” around him and others, Dr Thabane has resorted to desperate underhand tactics to scuttle the probe by instigating his ouster.

“The closing of the investigative net (into Ms Thabane’s murder) and noose around the first respondent and others, and an attempt to forever thwart the process and outcomes of the investigations, with the consequence of immunising himself from criminal investigation and prosecution for murder of Lipolelo Thabane, are the moving spirit and the real reasons for my forced leave, suspension and retirement,” Commissioner Molibeli states in his court papers.

“The first respondent (Dr Thabane’s) stratagem of having me indefinitely on forced leave and suspending failing, the last string in the bow and armoury in order to immunise himself from criminal investigations and prosecution, thus thwarting the rule of law, equality before the law, due process and justice, is to have me retired from the office of the commissioner of police by hook or crook.

“My removal from office…and the appointment of a willing and subservient candidate who will protect his interests guarantee the first respondent an immunisation tool against the investigation, prosecution and justice,” Commissioner Molibeli states.

And in his replying affidavit seen by the Lesotho Times this week, Dr Thabane denies Commissioner Molibeli’s assertions. He argues that his bid to remove Commissioner Molibeli is solely motivated by the latter’s incompetence as police boss.

He states that he is not seeking to avoid prosecution and the Lipolelo investigations will continue even after Commissioner Molibeli’s departure as he (Commissioner Molibeli) was not the one who initiated the investigations.

“It is not accurate that I am trying to avoid investigations or prosecution and it is not equally true that the investigations were initiated by applicant (Commissioner Molibeli). The investigations have been ongoing since the death of Lipolelo before the applicant became a commissioner,” Dr Thabane states.

“The investigations are not a personal project of the applicant, which will come to naught if he leaves.  I have already taken part in the said investigations and spoken to the police and there can be no basis for alleging I was trying to avoid the same. It is preposterous to suggest that I am immunising myself from investigation or prosecution.

“It is strange if not irresponsible for him (Commissioner Molibeli) to persistently allege that I am trying to avoid prosecution. To the best of my knowledge, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP Hlalefang Motinyane) has not made any decision to prosecute me on any allegations of murder. I take serious exception to any insinuations that I am liable to prosecution for murder when that lacks foundation and is brought as red herring. While the applicant is a policeman and in that capacity can have an opinion including a suspicion that I am implicated in the death of my wife, it is quite a different a different matter that he can claim that on public record in an affidavit, without legal advice that I am implicated in murder and that I am trying to immunise myself from prosecution.

“It is only the DPP who can decide if there is a prosecutable case against me and it is an absolute abuse of process for the applicant to tell the citizenry that I am avoiding prosecution for a case that involves the death of my wife when DPP has not made any such decision. I am legally advised and verily believe the same to be correct that it was not open to the applicant to make the allegations he has made against me in these proceedings; about the death of my wife, without first having given me a charge and an opportunity to respond,” Dr Thabane stated.

Justice Molefi Makara on Tuesday reserved judgement in Commissioner Molibeli’s application after hearing arguments from the police commissioner’s lawyer, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane and Dr Thabane’s lawyer, Advocate Rudie Cronje.

Adv Cronje argued that Commissioner Molibeli’s application was based on hearsay and unsupported facts about Dr Thabane advising King Letsie III to send the police chief on early retirement.

“The applicant…comes here on hearsay basis in that he says he received intelligence on 10 January 2020 that the Prime Minister had advised His Majesty the King to retire him and the said sources instructed him not to disclose who they are.

“There is also no explanation how he obtained the document (Dr Thabane’s letter to King Letsie III recommending the appointment of Senior Assistant Commissioner Hlaahla). There is nowhere in the document where h His Majesty the King is advised to retire the applicant. He used the document to support averments which lack facts.

“The applicant jumped the gun when he guessed that the King would not have used his discretion (after Dr Thabane’s recommendation). There was no need to rush to court and disturb a judge on a Sunday when the applicant could have just served the Attorney General and notified the King about his intention to approach the court,” Adv Cronje said.

Adv Maqakachane counter-argued that Dr Thabane’s lawyer had not disputed the authenticity of Dr Thabane’s recommendation letter to His Majesty and that his client had a cause of action because his job was threatened.

“They do not even want to get into the merits of the case. The applicant (Commissioner Molibeli)’s cause of action was the Prime Minister’s decision to advise His Majesty the King in terms of the letter based on untruths.

“The decisions to advise His Majesty and threaten to resort to section 91(3) of the constitution which gives him (Dr Thabane) power to make constitutional decisions which will appear as if they were made by His Majesty himself are unlawful, an abuse of executive power as well as irrational. The hurried resort to section 91(3) based on deceit should be reviewed.

“Hearsay evidence can be admissible in court provided the source of information is disclosed and not identity of the source as well as grounds that made the applicant believe the source. The applicant says he received information from national intelligence personnel and the letter assured him that indeed the Prime Minister had advised His Majesty the King,” Adv Maqakachane said.

Justice Makara said he would deliver the judgement sometime next week and his clerk would notify the parties when the judgement is ready.

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