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First Lady’s woes mount

Mohalenyane Phakela

FIRST Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s woes are mounting after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s grandson, Thomas Thabane Jr, on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeal to speedily convene a special sitting to review her bail.

Thabane Jr’s lawyer Attorney Koili Ndebele, wrote to the Court of Appeal Registrar, Advocate Mosito Rabotsoa, requesting that she urgently sets a date for the apex court to hear his appeal. This after Thabane Jr last week teamed up with Khauhelo Molapo, Thuto Makhooane and Thato Sibolla to file an application in the Court of Appeal for an order to set aside Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase’s controversial decision to grant Ms Thabane on 5 February 2020. Thabane Jr is the son of Dr Thabane’s second son, Potlako while Messrs Molapo and Makhooane are Dr Thabane’s nephews.

Ms Thabane stands accused of the 14 June 2017 murder of Dr Thabane’s former wife, Lipolelo. She has also been charged with the attempted murder of Ms Sibolla, who was travelling in the same vehicle with Lipolelo when she was gunned down in cold blood at Ha-’Masana, Maseru. Ms Sibolla sustained injuries in the incident which occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration for his second stint as premier.

Shortly after being charged and remanded in custody by Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa on 5 February 2020, Ms Thabane was controversially granted bail by Justice Mahase. According to authoritative judicial sources, the bail application was supposed to have been heard by the judge on call for bail applications and other urgent applications as per practice. That judge on call that week was Justice Keketso Moahloli, and not Justice Mahase. But the acting chief justice railroaded herself into the matter and hurriedly freed Ms Thabane.

Thabane Jr and Messrs Molapo and Makhooane were all raised by Lipolelo and they are aggrieved by her murder. Ms Sibolla is aggrieved by the bail decision because she survived the shooting incident which claimed the life of Lipolelo.

They have all petitioned the apex court to review and set aside Justice Mahase’s decision to grant Ms Thabane bail on the grounds that it was unprocedurally done. They argue that Justice Mahase should not have presided over the bail application in the first place.

Justice Mahase, Ms Thabane, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Attorney General (AG) Haae Phoofolo and the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli are the first to fifth respondents respectively in the apex court application.

The Court of Appeal normally has two sittings per year, first in April and another in October. However, the applicants want the matter to be heard urgently and have now written to the apex court to convene a special sitting before April.

Thabane Jr’s lawyer, Attorney Koili Ndebele, wrote the Court of Appeal registrar on Wednesday seeking a date closer than April for their matter to be reviewed quickly.

“The applicants and most particularly the survivor of an attempted murder (Ms Sibolla) are very unsafe and continue to feel unsafe and it is in the interest of justice that they enjoy the protection and sanction of the law,” Attorney Ndebele wrote.

“The applicants are seeking to review the propriety of the manner in which the proceedings in the lower court (High Court) were conducted (by Justice Mahase). The crown was never given an opportunity to present its case and let alone to allow the applicants herewith to stage their protestations. We therefore request that this matter be enrolled as an urgent review and to be heard within a reasonable time to be determined by this court. This case is not an ordinary run of the mill case. It is a case of grave national importance because it implicates the wife of the sitting head of government in a heinous crime of murder. The public interest that this case evokes requires and demands prompt judicial redress.

“The international community and the world at large views this case with the highest level of circumspect and this is clearly a moment for is as a country to uplift the core ethics and values underpinned in the constitution of Lesotho as a sovereign state.”

Court of Appeal’s assistant registrar, Advocate Mosito Rabotsoa, confirmed reception of the letter to the Sunday Express and said the issue was yet to be dealt with.

“I did receive a letter asking for a special sitting regarding the matter in question. I am yet to meet the president of Court of Appeal (Justice Kananelo Mosito) to discuss the issue and he is the one who will determine the way forward,” Adv Rabotsoa said.

In his review application, Thabane Jr says that he and his co-applicants were not surprised when they learnt that Ms Thabane was the prime suspect in the Lipolelo murder because she stood to benefit directly by becoming the First Lady in the deceased’s place. Prior to her gruesome killing, the High Court had ruled that Lipolelo was the rightful First Lady as her divorce from Dr Thabane had not been finalised by the court.

Thabane Jr also argues that Ms Thabane is an “extremely dangerous person” who should not be out on bail as she is capable of mobilising famo gangsters to kill witnesses.

“The situation is extremely dire and there is need for intervention by this honourable court to salvage the situation,” Thabane Jr states.

“The accused (Ms Thabane) is clearly an extremely dangerous person with an evident mercurial character and with the propensity to engage assassins and gangsters of the famo music in order to meet her ends. The second respondent (Ms Thabane) enjoys the status of being a spouse of sitting prime minister and hence enjoys the shield of the institutions of government. For that reason, she is both powerful and dangerous and poses a threat to all those who bear the potential of testifying against her in the serious murder case that she is facing. Her release irrespective of her status undermines the rule of law…”

Thabane Jr’s characterisation of Ms Thabane as a “dangerous and bloodthirsty individual” is supported by DCP Mokete who submitted an affidavit stating that the First Lady was capable of “recruiting assassins to kill innocent persons” and inciting people against the police for investigating her part in the 2017 murder of Lipolelo.

In their affidavits, Mr Molapo and Mr Makhooane concur with Thabane Jr’s submissions and similarly oppose the granting of bail to Ms Thabane.

On her part, Ms Sibolla states that she has been living in fear after learning that Ms Thabane is a suspect in the Lipolelo murder and her own attempted murder. She said she had therefore fled the country for her own safety.

In his court papers, Thabane Jr also attacks Justice Mahase for unprocedurally granting Ms Thabane bail and hints at legal action against the judge over the matter.

He says the bail application was granted on the grounds that Ms Thabane had to seek medical attention in South Africa despite that she did not submit any evidence to support her claims that she needed medical help. He also argues that Ms Thabane was unprocedurally released without meeting the bail conditions which included paying the M1000 bail deposit. The payment was only made on 6 February 2020, a day after Ms Thabane had been released from custody.

He further argues that the bail was granted without according the DPP Hlalefang Motinyane and the Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli an opportunity to be heard.

According to Advocate Mamello Ntsane, a senior superintendent commanding the legal services of the police, Justice Mahase refused to grant them a request to oppose bail on 6 February 2020 on the grounds that she and Ms Thabane would be unavailable for the proceedings on that day. He said Justice Mahase instead ordered them to appear before her and argue the matter on 7 February 2020. But then the bail had already been granted (on 5 February 2020), rendering the whole matter mute and purposeless.

Ms Thabane is due in the Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday for her routine remand.

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