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ACP Mapola leaps to Thabane’s defence

  • denies allegations of former premier’s involvement in his ex-wife’s murder
  • claims ex-premier’s phone was never used in Lipolelo murder,
  • says allegations were fabricated by the Mahao faction in collaboration with Molibeli.

Pascalinah Kabi

ASSISTANT Police Commissioner (ACP) Motlatsi Mapola has leapt to the defence of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, saying the latter was falsely implicated in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.

The central allegation against Mr Thabane, by Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, is that his mobile phone was used to communicate with Lipolelo’s killers who were at the crime scene in Ha ‘Masana when she was assassinated.

But in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, ACP Mapola alleged that Mr

Thabane’s mobile phone was not used in the cold-blooded murder of his ex-wife.

ACP Mapola instead accused a faction of Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) faction led by deputy leader, Professor Nqosa Mahao, of conniving with Commissioner Molibeli to fabricate the allegations against Mr Thabane.

He alleged that the Mahao faction found a willing tool in Commissioner Molibeli who latched onto the fabrications because he was desperate to save himself from Mr Thabane who wanted to fire him from his post.

Prof Mahao, who is Justice and Law minister, denied the allegations in an interview with this publication. He also threatened to sue ACP Mapola for allegedly peddling falsehoods against him.

Commissioner Molibeli, who is locked in a bitter feud with ACP Mapola over his moves to oust the latter, also rubbished ACP Mapola’s claims.

“Fortunately, all these allegations will be tested in a competent court of law,” Commissioner Molibeli told the Sunday Express.

“I can assure you that all these allegations are untrue and I will also have an opportunity to present my side of the story in court,” he added.

However, ACP Mapola insists that Commissioner Molibeli and the Mahao faction, which has been involved in a war of attrition with Mr Thabane and his allies for control of the ABC for the past two years, joined forces to “fabricate” the allegations to force the former premier out of office.

He alleged that Commissioner Molibeli was only three weeks away from retiring when Mr Thabane appointed him police boss in August 2017.

He said Commissioner Molibeli’s was an irregular appointment done by Mr Thabane because the ex-premier wanted him to carry out an undisclosed assignment on his behalf.

However, the duo’s relationship soured and things did not go according to plan after Mr Thabane attempted to fire the police boss early last year, ACP Mapola alleged.

Desperate to save himself, Commissioner Molibeli threw himself into the waiting arms of the Mahao faction which was also looking to get rid of Mr Thabane, ACP Mapola alleged.

It was then that the two parties hatched a plot to besmirch Mr Thabane by “fabricating the lie” that his mobile phone was used to communicate with Lipolelo’s killers, ACP Mapola further alleged.

The allegations of the use of Mr Thabane’s mobile phone in the gruesome murder is the centerpiece of the Crown’s case against Mr Thabane and his wife. It all came to light in a leaked letter Commissioner Molibeli wrote to the former premier in December 2019 asking him to explain why his mobile phone had been used to communicate with Lipolelo’s murderers during the commission of the crime.

Commissioner Molibeli later filed an affidavit as part of his ultimately successful January 2020 High Court application to stop Mr Thabane from firing him.

In that affidavit, Commissioner Molibeli accused Mr 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 stated in his papers that Mr Thabane was a suspect in the murder of Lipolelo and the ex-premier’s phone had been used in communications with the murderers.

Mr Thabane has still not been formally charged with Lipolelo’s murder. (See story on page 4).

The claims of Mr Thabane’s involvement in Lipolelo’s murder- according to ACP Mapola- are a “pure lie” fabricated by the Mahao faction and presented to the court by Commissioner Molibeli.

“The murder case of ‘m’e Lipolelo Thabane, who was mercilessly killed, has embarrassed the police in my own opinion,” ACP Mapola said in an interview with the Sunday Express.

“Although the police did not actually kill Lipolelo, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has Lipolelo’s blood on its hands because the current commissioner of police allowed himself to be used by politicians to politicise a very serious case of her murder.

Ntate Molibeli politicised it and compromised the LMPS because after he had fallen out of favour with his principal (Thabane), he decided to fight back and the politicians took advantage of him and used him. Who are those politicians? They are the Likatana (Mahao) faction which was at war with Malumara (Thabane) faction.

“Likatana took advantage of Ntate Molibeli and used him by creating a lie. I want to repeat that: a lie was created by the Likatana faction and they advised Ntate Molibeli to say Ntate Thabane’s phone was involved at the scene of the crime where Lipolelo was killed. That’s lie, a fabrication done by Molibeli on the advice of the Likatana faction and I believe it is particularly the advice of Ntate Mahao,” ACP Mapola said.

Asked why he was adamant that the Mahao faction and Commissioner Molibeli fabricated the story of Mr Thabane’s involvement in Lipolelo’s murder, ACP Mapola said he formed his opinion after consulting the initial team of experienced investigators who had successfully conducted other investigations including the murders committed by the jailed double ritual murderer, Lehlohonolo Scott.

He said the investigators led by Senior Inspector Mphelehetse Khatleli had done “an excellent job” investigating Scott and this led former Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa to assign them to investigate the Lipolelo murder.

Mr Letsoepa– who was appointed by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition government in November 2015 – was police boss when Lipolelo was murdered in June 2017.

When Mr Thabane took over later that same month, he sent Mr Letsoepa on an involuntary 90-day leave pending retirement but the latter skipped the country shortly afterwards.

Mr Letsoepa was subsequently accused of the 2016 murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng. He remains a wanted man.

Commenting on the initial Lipolelo murder investigations, ACP Mapola said, “the team led by Khatleli successfully investigated the Scott case without compromising their ethics and Letsoepa trusted them to do the same thing in Lipolelo case and they did”.

“This is why I am saying I know that the issue of Mr Thabane’s phone being used at the scene of crime is a pure lie. It was made up to politically attack Ntate Thabane and help Ntate Mahao to come to power.

“I am part of the police management and after having seen that there was a problem with the Lipolelo case, I had to go to the people who were investigating and asked them to tell me what really happened. From that same group, I know that this is a fabrication, it is speculation that Ntate Thabane’s phone was used there,” ACP Mapola said.

Snr Insp Khatleli, who was transferred to Mokhotlong in March 2020, has previously told the Lesotho Times that the Lipolelo probe was a “straightforward investigation” which could have been concluded a long time ago if they had all the necessary resources at their disposal.

He could not be reached for comment on ACP Mapola’s latest claims.

Meanwhile, contacted for comment, Prof Mahao said, “Is he (Mapola) saying it was me who did that (fabricated lies about Mr Thabane’s involvement in the Lipolelo murder)?

“Just write whatever he said so I can sue him. Does he look like he has money when you look at him? Just write so I can sue him,” Prof Mahao said.

ACP Mapola and Commissioner Molibeli are locked in a bitter feud after the former recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane should prosecute the police boss and his top assistant Beleme Lebajoa for allegedly attempting to defeat the ends of justice to protect former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane from investigation and arrest for allegedly assaulting one Thesele Matela sometime in 2017.

Commissioner Molibeli has begun moves to dismiss ACP Mapola for allegedly making false allegations against him.

However, ACP Mapola has since been granted an interim court order barring Commissioner Molibeli from firing him from the force pending the finalisation of his application for a final order against the police boss.

ACP Mapola said there was “strong evidence to support allegations that Ntate Molibeli defeated the ends of justice” and these would be tested in the courts of law.

Ntate Molibeli must be a professional police officer. I have no right to say this but it must be said. If Ntate Molibeli feels like he is unable to lead the police as per the rules and regulations in place, he must free himself from this quagmire that he finds himself in. He must resign,” ACP Mapola said.

He also accused Prof Mahao of falsifying the findings of an August 2020 inter-ministerial probe into the instability in the police force to protect Commissioner Molibeli because he and his faction allegedly used the police boss to advance their political interests against Mr Thabane.

“The published report of the inter-ministerial commission of inquiry has only captured Ntate Molibeli’s side. None of the issues that were raised by the Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP Sera) Makharilele, ACP (Seabata)Tutuoane, myself and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) have been captured in that report. We are fighting to have those issues made public so that the nation can know what really transpired in that commission of inquiry.

“The manner in which Ntate Mahao handled this matter is not acceptable. With the help of these organisations, we hope to have everything published. We will even go as far as the High Court and Court of Appeal to force Ntate Mahao to publish what really transpired before the commission of inquiry. This biased report must not be considered because its interest is only on highlighting Ntate Molibeli’s side of the story,” ACP Mapola said.

When ACP Mapola’s allegations were put to Prof Mahao, he again said, “write whatever he said so I can sue him”.

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