- as police widen Lipolelo murder investigations
- more high-profile including ministers suspects to be arrested
Mohalenyane Phakela | Ntsebeng Motsoeli
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane’s spokesperson, Relebohile Moyeye, was arrested by the police on Thursday.
He was subsequently charged on Friday with defeating the ends of justice in connection with his alleged role in assisting murder-accused First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane evade arrest and flee the country on 10 January 2020.
Mr Moyeye’s arrest follows Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete’s Tuesday declaration that the police would go after prominent individuals including ministers and businessmen who allegedly assisted Ms Thabane to flee the country.
Deputy Commissioner Mokete made the remarks in a press conference which was convened the same day that Ms Thabane who had fled to South Africa, returned and surrendered to the police who promptly detained her for a night.
On Wednesday, the First Lady appeared before Maseru Magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, and was charged with the June 2017 murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s former ex-wife, Lipolelo.
She was also charged with the attempted murder of one Thato Sibolla who was travelling in the same vehicle with Lipolelo when she was gunned down in cold blood at Ha ’Masana, Maseru, on the night of 14 June 2017. Ms Sibolla sustained some injuries in the incident which occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration for his second stint as premier.
Ahead of her Wednesday court appearance, DCP Mokete indicated that more people- some of them currently holed up in South Africa-would also be charged alongside Ms Thabane.
The police boss also said they would also go after some high-profile individuals who had assisted Ms Thabane to flee the country.
“When we called her (Ms Thabane) on 10 January, she did not come but instead she fled the country,” DCP Mokete said.
“We had been keeping tabs on her and getting information that she was in Ficksburg, QwaQwa and Durban and we had traced her to Bethlehem before her lawyer negotiated to bring her back on Tuesday.
“Our investigations revealed that she was assisted to flee using government vehicles and that while she was a fugitive, there were high ranking officials including ministers and businessmen who were financially assisting her. The police had already spread the message that she was wanted and therefore assisting a fugitive is a crime and we will be working on prosecuting all those who assisted her,” added DCP Mokete.
On Friday, Mr Moyeye (44) became the first of the high-profile individuals to be arrested for assisting Ms Thabane to evade arrest and flee the country on 10 January 2020.
Just like Ms Thabane, he was released on M1000 bail. He was remanded to 20 February 2020 when the court is expected to set his trial dates.
“You (Moyeye) are accused of contravening section 87(2) read with section 109 of the Penal Code Act No.6 of 2010 in that on 10 January 2020 in Maseru West at the State House, you acted against the law and intentionally obstructed justice by assisting one, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, flee from justice. You have a right to bail and use a lawyer of your choice,” Magistrate Qoo read the charge.
Mr Moyeye’s lawyer, Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, immediately asked the court to release his client on bail, arguing that he was not a flight risk and had already cooperated with the police in their investigations.
“The accused is the spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s office and he has a family and permanent place of residence in Khubetsoana. He duly cooperated with the police investigation team and was arrested until he was brought before this court. We ask that he be released under ordinary bail conditions without surety and only pay M500,” said Adv Setlojoane who also represents Ms Thabane in her murder and attempted murder cases.
The prosecutor, Advocate Matiase Chopo, did not object to bail but asked the fee to be raised to M1000 due to the serious nature of the crime. Adv Chopo also told the court that police had concluded their investigations and they were ready to proceed to trial.
Thereafter, Mr Moyeye was released on M1000 bail and his bail conditions are that he should “attend remands, stand trial to finality and not interfere with crown witnesses”.
He was remanded to 20 February 2020 when the court is expected to set his trial dates.
Mr Moyeye arrived at Maseru Magistrate Court in the back of a police van, escorted by three police officers. Unlike Ms Thabane who was brought in through the back door for her Wednesday court appearance as is often the case with high profile suspects, Mr Moyeye was on Friday brought into court through the normal front entrance just like other normal suspects. He stood in the dock, clad in a camouflage jacket and a pair of jeans.
Initially the police also wanted him charged with stealing a government vehicle which he allegedly used to assist Ms Thabane to skip the country and evade arrest. But DCP Mokete said the charge was dropped because of lack of evidence.
Ms Thabane is out on M1000 bail after she was arrested and charged with the 14 June 2017 murder of Lipolelo and the attempted murder of Thato Sibolla on that same night.
Ms Thabane returned to the country on Tuesday, almost a month after she fled to evade arrest by the police who had sought her in connection with Lipolelo’s murder.
She skipped the country on 10 January 2020 after a warrant for her arrest had been issued by the Maseru Magistrates’ Court that same day. This after she had refused to report to the police for questioning. The police later said she was holed up in Ficksburg, South Africa.
She even approached the courts to have the arrest warrant cancelled on the grounds that it was not properly obtained. In the meantime, she kept a low profile while her lawyer engaged the police over her return. The police had also declared her a fugitive from justice and issued public notices appealing for information that could help lead to her arrest.
Some government sources yesterday told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times newspaper that Ms Thabane had no choice but to give herself up to avoid the ignominy of being arrested and extradited to Lesotho in the same manner as other suspects like double ritual murder suspect, Lehlohonolo Scott. Even though extradition processes can get protracted, her high profile would only have kept the spotlight on her with many
She returned to the country through the Maseru border on Tuesday morning in the company of her lawyer, Adv Setlojoane. She was immediately whisked off by the waiting police to their headquarters for questioning.
DCP Mokete, had on Tuesday told the media they had wrapped up their investigations and they had a strong case against Ms Thabane and eight others whose names would be revealed at the right time.
On Friday, DCP Mokete said two others — Manama Letsie and Nteborose Mpiti Ralekuku — were wanted to provide information in connection with the Lipolelo murder and Ms Thabane’s flight from the police on 10 January 2020.
According to DCP Mokete, Mr Letsie failed to show up after being asked to report to the Police Headquarters in Maseru on Friday at 8am. DCP Mokete said Mr Letsie informed them that he would only come in the company of his lawyer who he said was currently outside the country. Mr Letsie is now expected to report to the police tomorrow.
“Mr Letsie told us through a phone call that he would come to us in the company of his lawyer. He said the lawyer will be back in the country from South Africa on Monday. We expect to hear from him then,” DCP Mokete said.
He said they had sought in vain to bring in Ms Ralekuku for questioning as she did not answer her mobile phone and was not at her home when they sought her there on Friday.
“Today (Friday) the police went to look for Ms Ralekuku at her home to bring her in questioning but she was not found. We are still looking for her to provide information regarding the commission of crime in the murder of Ms Thabane and the fleeing of the first lady. The two matters are closely related,” DCP Mokete said.
He said they had since been granted warrants for the arrest of Ms Ralekuku and Mr Letsie and the duo would be arrested if they failed to report to the police this week.
The arrest of Mr Moyeye and the impending arrests of other unnamed high profile individuals follow the police’s declaration that they will leave no stone unturned in solving the murder which shocked the nation and the entire southern African region.