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Lockdown forces postponement of First Lady’s case

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, will have to wait until after the lockdown to know when she will finally stand trial for allegedly murdering her husband, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo in June 2017.

This after the Maseru Magistrate Courts postponed her case to a date that is still to be decided. ‘Maesaiah is currently out on M1000 bail and she was initially supposed to be appear for her remand session on Tuesday. However, her remand hearing did not proceed with her lawyer, Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, telling this publication that the state had informed that a new date would only be set for the case after the lockdown which expected to end on 21 April 2020.

The nationwide lockdown began on 30 March 2020 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The courts subsequently announced that they would significantly reduce operations by suspending proceedings for cases before the courts including remand hearings. However, urgent applications will still be heard and finalised during the period of the lockdown.

‘Maesaiah 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 Thato 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.

Shortly after being charged and remanded in custody by Maseru Magistrate Nthabiseng Moopisa on 5 February 2020, Ms Thabane was granted bail by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.

During her previous appearance on 17 March 2020, Adv Setlojoane told Maseru Magistrate Thamae Thamae that if his client’s trial did not begin on 14 April, he would apply for her dismissal in terms of constitutional provisions as well as the Speedy Court Trial Act which prescribe that suspects must be speedily tried.

Adv Setlojoane cited section 12 of the Speedy Court Trial Act which provides for the dismissal of cases and imposes fines on the crown counsel where it can be shown that they have wilfully failed to proceed with the trial of a suspect without justification.

Prominent Famo musician Mosotho Chakela, whose real name is Rethabile Mokete, is among those who have been charged alongside ‘Maesaiah. The others are Seabata Sello, Molefi Matima and Macheli Koeshe. The four are however, at large and have so far failed to honour police summons to hand themselves in so that they can be tried for Lipolelo’s murder.

The police have since declared them fugitives from justice and issued notices calling on the pubic to assist with information leading to their arrest. The police have also requested their South African Police Service (SAPS) counterparts to arrest the four should they locate them in South Africa where they are believed to be residing.

Dr Thabane has since filed a Constitutional Court application to stop the courts from trying him for the murder or any other crime as long as he remains in office.

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