Thabane’s divorce case stalls

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…as lawyer queries change of judge

Tefo Tefo

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his estranged wife Lipolelo Alice Thabane
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his estranged wife Lipolelo Alice Thabane

LAWYERS representing former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, Lipolelo, in their divorce trial meet Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara today to discuss a “misunderstanding” regarding the case’s allocation to a new judge.

The matter was set for a preliminary hearing, known in legal terms as pre-trial conference, on Tuesday before Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane.

However, Ms Thabane’s lawyer, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, sought clarification from Justice Hlajoane how she ended up with the case yet it had been before Justice Teboho Moiloa all along.

According to a court official close to the case, an agreement was then reached between the lawyers that they should meet the Chief Justice today, Thursday, so she could explain the transfer as she is responsible for allocating cases to the various judges.

The court official further told the Lesotho Times that Advocate Mda wanted clarification before the case could proceed as he wanted to ensure the re-allocation was transparent and would not prejudice his client.

Contacted for comment, Advocate Mda confirmed the developments, adding the change in the judge had come as a surprise to him and his client.

“We are going to meet the Chief Justice on Thursday to clarify how the case has been allocated to another judge.

“It is not like we are against any particular judge, but we are just seeking an explanation as to why the matter has been removed from the judge who has been dealing with it all along.

“You will realise that the judge who has been handling this case has already made some rulings on interlocutory matters in this matter, so there should be an explanation as to why the case has now been re-allocated,” Advocate Mda said.

According to papers before the court, Dr Thabane was married to Lipolelo (née Makhooane) “by civil rites and in community of property in 1987,” and the marriage “still subsists”, although the couple has been living apart since 2009.

Dr Thabane indicates in the court documents that no child was born out of the marriage “but the parties have legally adopted one minor child (name withheld to protect her identity).”

According to the court documents, Dr Thabane is seeking to end the marriage because Ms Lipolelo “acted with a fixed and malicious intention to terminate the said marriage” by committing the following “matrimonial wrongs: Using vulgar and profane language towards my children from a previous marriage; Carousing until late hours of the night; In 2010, she started living away from the matrimonial home without any prior arrangement; Sometime in 2010, she arrived at the matrimonial home in Makhoakhoeng and following an altercation with me, smashed windows and doors of the house; Since that fateful day, has not been to the matrimonial home, thus denying me consortium and all other related marital rights and privileges; stopped showing any love and affections towards me”.

Dr Thabane further submitted, through his legal representative, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, that under the said circumstances, “and solely due to matrimonial misconduct” on the part of Ms Lipolelo, the couple has not been living together as husband and wife for an “unreasonably long period of time” and “there is no harmony in their marriage”.

According to the court papers, Dr Thabane is demanding the following from Ms Lipolelo:

  • Divorce on the grounds of malicious desertion.
  • Custody of the minor child, subject to Ms Lipolelo’s reasonable access.
  • Maintenance of the minor child to be his sole responsibility, with Ms Lipolelo still having a duty and right to contribute towards the maintenance according to her own means and abilities.
  • Division of their joint estate.

However, in her defence, Ms Lipolelo dismisses Dr Thabane’s claims and gives her own version of events.

Through her lawyer, Advocate Mda, Ms Lipolelo notes in her court papers: “The defendant, by agreement of the parties, lives in the Republic of South Africa and only comes to Lesotho on weekends and does not have night escapades. She comes to Lesotho to attend to family business.

“The true scenario was as follows: Sometime in 2010, the defendant (Ms Lipolelo) reported to the plaintiff (Dr Thabane) that a relative of theirs (one Thaabe) had sexually harassed her and the plaintiff did not care, and instead, locked her outside the matrimonial home.

“The defendant retaliated by breaking down the windows, and the plaintiff then instructed his sons (from a previous marriage) to assault the defendant. The assault continued without the plaintiff intervening.”

Criminal charges were laid against Ms Lipolelo’s assailants, the court papers indicate, while Dr Thabane pressed charges of malicious damage to property.

“This is the main reason why the defendant is afraid to go back to the matrimonial home,” Advocate Mda submitted.

Moreover, the lawyer added, it was Dr Thabane who recently told Ms Lipolelo that he no longer loved her.

“Indeed, the defendant is desirous and eager to return to the matrimonial home,” Advocate Mda submitted, adding Ms Lipolelo was also eager to “restore conjugal rights at any time and is of the view that the marriage can still be saved”.

Ms Lipolelo further submitted that throughout the course of their marriage, Dr Thabane had allegedly committed adultery with numerous partners.

But in his counter-response, Dr Thabane, through his lawyer, explained why he stopped living with Ms Lipolelo.

“The defendant has permanently been living in Lesotho since around 2009 after the parties’ matrimonial home in Johannesburg, South Africa, was auctioned for failure by the defendant to pay mortgage bond.  The home was auctioned despite the plaintiff sending the defendant, at the end of each month, money as contribution for her own maintenance and payment of the mortgage bond.”

Attorney Mosotho further submitted that even when the said matrimonial home was put on auction, Ms Lipolelo never informed or advised Dr Thabane about it.

“Upon her return to Lesotho, the defendant stayed at her friend’s house and did not join the plaintiff at the parties’ matrimonial home in Makhoakhoeng. This, she did without any prior consultation or agreement with the plaintiff,” Attorney Mosotho submitted.

Attorney Mosotho added regarding the alleged assault by Dr Thabane’s sons, the correct position was Ms Lipolelo had attended a wedding of a relative in Makhoakhoeng “and late at night, she and her brother went to the parties’ matrimonial home. When the plaintiff refused to let them inside the house, they  broke the windows into the plaintiff’s bedroom and threw stones at him.”

Attorney Mosotho added neighbours informed Dr Thabane’s sons of the situation and they, in turn, rushed to their father’s rescue.

“The defendant is not afraid to return to the matrimonial home as she has never been to the matrimonial home since her return from South Africa. The parties have, over the years, drifted apart and there is no longer love shared between them,” Attorney Mosotho noted.

Dr Thabane, the lawyer added, denied “being engaged in adulterous relationships as alleged or at all and puts the defendant to strictest proof thereof.

“Alternatively, and assuming but without conceding that the allegations in this regard were true, that would be proof that there is no longer marital bonds shared by the parties, in particular when the defendant alleges not to have condoned the alleged adulterous acts by the plaintiff.

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