Thabane to finally stand trial for ex-wife’s murder

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Staff Reporter

FORMER Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will finally stand trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo, early next year after a formal decision to charge him was finally taken.

Mr Thabane will be at the High Court next Tuesday to get a formal notice of trial via the Registrar’s office.  He will be officially informed he will stand trial around February next year.

Mr Thabane will be tried alongside his current wife, ‘Maesaiah, who has already been charged in the magistrates’ court and released on M10 000 bail.

Although the decision to charge him was officially communicated to him last month by the High Court’s Assistant Registrar, Stafford Sharite, it only came to light this week.

The 29 October 2021 notice of trial by Advocate Sharite is addressed to “Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, a Mosotho male adult and the former Prime Minister of Lesotho.

“Take notice that you will be tried on the indictment copy whereof is annexed hereto before the High Court of Lesotho at the session thereof to be held at Maseru on the 30th November 2021,” Adv Sharite states. However, the leaked copy does not contain the annexure detailing what will transpire when Mr Thabane appears in court next week. It is understood that Mr Thabane will be formally informed that he has been joined to the murder case against his wife and should appear in court to stand trial in February next year.

Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Adv Sharite were unsuccessful last night as his mobile phone rang unanswered.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, was also unreachable for comment yesterday.

However, Ms Thabane’s lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane, confirmed that his client and her husband, Mr Thabane would both be appearing in the High Court on Tuesday.

“My client (Ms Thabane) has been served with the notice of trial in the High Court. Adv (Salemane) Phafane and I will be representing her in the matter.

“She is due to appear alongside her husband. He was previously represented by Mr (Qhalehang) Letsika and perhaps he will still be representing him,” Adv Setlojoane told the Lesotho Times last night.

Contacted for comment, Mr Letsika said Mr Thabane had not engaged him to represent him in his upcoming court appearance. He, however, said he was ready to represent the former premier if called upon to do so.

Mr Thabane initially appeared in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court in February 2020 after being slapped with the same murder charges alongside his wife, ‘Maesaiah.

The two are accused of masterminding the heinous murder of Lipolelo on the eve of Mr Thabane’s second inauguration as prime minister.

However, he was not asked to plead. This after his then lawyer, Mr Letsika, raised a constitutional issue that Mr Thabane was immune from prosecution as long as he remained prime minister.   Magistrate Phethise Motanyane then referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for adjudication. But Mr Thabane and his lawyers never filed the Constitutional Court application.

Mr Thabane was then forced to resign as prime minister by his party in May 2020, with a powerful faction of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) then led by Professor Nqosa Mahao arguing that the country could not be ruled by a murder suspect.

Thereafter, rumours quickly spread that he would be arrested as his constitutional argument had become moot due to his forced resignation.  Mr Thabane himself even announced at a function at his house on 6 July 2020 that he was due to be arrested the following day. However, that never happened with DCP Mokete saying he was “tying loose ends” before arresting Mr Thabane and taking him to court. That too did not happen.

Since that time, the police and the DPP’s office had been blaming each other with the police saying they had done their part but the DPP’s office was still not taking action. In turn, the DPP blamed the police for the delay, saying they had failed to cooperate with her on crucial aspects of the case matter.

Unconfirmed reports alleged that the DPP had been persuaded by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro not to prosecute Mr Thabane because Dr Majoro was scared of alienating Mr Thabane’s supporters within the ABC as the current premier moves to consolidate his own position within the party and country ahead of elections next year.  Dr Majoro has to date not commented on these allegations.  But his relations with Mr Thabane have been on a downward spiral.

An ABC source who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, last night said Dr Majoro did not have any reason to fear Mr Thabane’s allies in the party as they did not have the numbers to topple him even if they wanted to.

“The argument that Majoro would be blocking Thabane’s prosecution for fear of being ousted by his supporters in the party does not hold water at this point in time because they don’t have the numbers to oust him. They are already fighting him and they would have toppled him if they had the numbers. He will remain in his post despite the (former ABC legislator Tefo) Mapesela motion to oust him because he still has the support of the Democratic Congress (DC) and its allies in the coalition,” the source said.

A judicial source said the notice of trial was only issued to Mr Thabane last month because the prosecution now felt it had a watertight case against the former premier, the source said.

“The DPP is confident that there is solid evidence to successfully prosecute Ntate Thabane for the murder of his wife,” said the source.

The police accuse Mr Thabane and his wife of plotting the murder of Lipolelo to facilitate ‘Maesaiah’s ascension to the post of First Lady.  Lipolelo had been estranged from Mr Thabane but she had won the right to be recognised as the real First Lady because her long running divorce case with Mr Thabane had not been finalised when Mr Thabane was elected for his second stint as premier in June 2017.

Lipolelo was then murdered two days before Mr Thabane’s inauguration. The police insist the only motive for her murder was to pave way for the “impatient” ‘Maesaiah to become First Lady as the courts had declared that only Lipolelo qualified for benefits of that position. With divorce cases generally taking a long time to conclude in Lesotho, ‘Maesaiah is accused of having opted for the “quickest” and “easiest” way out in eliminating Lipolelo.

But the former First Lady  denies the allegations which came to light when Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli wrote to Mr Thabane in January 2020 asking him to explain why his cellphone number had allegedly been used in communications detected during the commission of the crime.   Mr Thabane had then tried to fire Commissioner Molibeli but the latter was saved by the courts.

If her husband’s phone had been used during the commission of the crime, then it was the duty of the husband to answer for that and not her, Ms Thabane has argued in her defence.

Mr Thabane denies the allegations which made international headlines when they were first made. In a previous interview with the Lesotho Times, the former prime minister said he and ‘Maesaiah were innocent because “we don’t kill people”.

Last week ‘Maesaiah asked the courts to relax her bail conditions. But the Crown opposed the application with Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete alleging that some of the witnesses in the case had been eliminated at the behest of the former First Lady. He did not name the witnesses.

 

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