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Prison authorities foil plot to smuggle alcohol to ‘Maesaiah

  • former first lady’s friend faces jail, fine for the offence

’Marafaele Mohloboli

A CLOSE friend of the former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane faces an M5 000 fine and two years’ imprisonment after being caught attempting to smuggle alcohol to Ms Thabane.

Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) spokesperson Superintendent Neo Mopeli this week told the Sunday Express that the culprit, Ntebo Ralekuku, will be charged alone. The incident happened on Monday while ‘Maesaiah was still in remand prison awaiting trial for the 14 June 2017 murder of her husband, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo. She was released on bail on Tuesday after her application was granted a day earlier by High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo.

Supt Mopeli said Ms Thabane narrowly escaped prosecution because the alcohol was confiscated before it had reached her.

He however, said they could not rule out the possibility that she may have received the alcohol at some point during her near month-long incarceration which ended after she was freed on bail on Tuesday.

He said although they could not say for certain, it was possible that had previously smuggled in alcohol for Ms Thabane.

“Ms Ralekuku faces two years imprisonment, a M5 000 fine or for bringing some alcohol for her friend ‘Maesaiah while she was still in custody,” Supt Mopeli said.

“She (Ralekuku) is the only one who is being charged because the alcohol was confiscated before it reached her friend.

“Had the alcohol been found on her (‘Maesaiah) she would also have been charged. However, there is a possibility that this could not be the first time that alcohol has been smuggled in for the same inmate. We have decided to focus on this particular case where we have tangible evidence.

“There are certain items that are not allowed inside our facilities and alcohol is not one of them. it is clearly stipulated in our laws that anyone found in possession of alcohol commits an offence and is liable to prosecution. If convicted that person can be slapped with a M5 000 fine or two years in prison or both,” said Supt Mopeli.

Asked why they suspected alcohol could have been previously smuggled to ‘Maesaiah, Supt Mopeli said there was a time they became suspicious of the behaviour of the former first lady after she and her cell mates started talking boisterously at the top of their voices.

“From that point on, our officers became suspicious but there was nothing that could be done as there was no tangible evidence. Our officials won’t be charged for negligence over the incident because it is likely that due to social distancing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, people could have taken advantage of the fact that no thorough searches were conducted.

Meanwhile, Police spokesperson Supt Mpiti Mopeli said they were investigating reports that Ralekuku had attempted to smuggle in the alcohol concealed in fruit boxes along with food to ‘Maesaiah.

“It is said that Ralekuku was busted on Monday by vigilant officials who had been suspicious of her from her previous visit on Saturday,” said Supt Mopeli.

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