24 June 2017

Lesotho: Parties Wade in Over PM's Wife Murder Probe

Photo: File photo/Lesotho Times
Thomas Thabane and wife Lipolelo Alice Thabane

THE youth leagues of the former governing parties have waded into the murder investigation of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's wife, Lipolelo Thabane, saying they were ready to assist the police "since it was crystal clear" who was behind it.

The youth leagues further claim it was a "striking coincidence" that the killing happened with just a day to go before Dr Thabane's inauguration, adding that Ms Thabane would have been entitled to the perks of a first lady.

However, the police have urged the youth leagues to honour their pledge to assist with investigations, failing which the law enforcement agency would approach them to explain their statements.

For its part, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) has slated the youth leagues for "callously taking advantage of a tragedy for cheap politicking", urging the parties to divulge what they know to the police "if they are sincere".

Ms Thabane was shot dead on Wednesday last week by an unknown assailant as she was about to drive into her Ha 'Masana home on the outskirts of Maseru.

The 58-year-old was with a female friend when she was fatally shot in the head at about 6.40pm.

According to police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Clifford Molefe, the investigation into the killing was ongoing, with no arrests being made so far.

Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Youth League Secretary-General Potso Shao addressed a press conference earlier this week in which he claimed to be speaking on behalf of the seven former governing parties.

The parties in the former government consist of the Democratic Congress (DC), LCD, Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party, Lesotho People's Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.

However, the BCP has of late disassociated itself from the other parties after its leader, Thulo Mahlakeng, clashed with DC leader and former premier Pakalitha Mosisili during the elections campaign period.

Dr Mosisili had accused Advocate Mahlakeng, who was Labour and Employment minister at the time, of delaying the approval of a nine percent minimum wage increment for workers.

For his part, Adv Mahlakeng counter accused Dr Mosisili of peddling "contorted information" to win over supporters ahead of the elections.

Inaugurated on 17 March 2015, the seven-party coalition government's tenure was prematurely ended by a 1 March 2017 parliamentary no-confidence engineered by the ABC, Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) prompting King Letsie III to call for elections.

The 3 June 2017 polls resulted in a hung parliament for the third time in as many elections, with the ABC, AD, BNP and RCL cobbling up the 63 seats they garnered to form government. The threshold for forming government is 61 seats in the 120-seat National Assembly.

Mr Shao said it was a "striking coincidence" that Ms Thabane was killed just before her estranged husband's inauguration.

Dr Thabane filed divorce papers against Ms Thabane - who was his second wife -- on 27 July 2012, on grounds of malicious desertion, among other things.

The matter was still pending in the courts at the time of her death. However, the High Court had ruled, on 13 January 2015, that Lipolelo Ms Thabane was the country's official First Lady "and should be immediately afforded all the benefits she is entitled to, including a chauffeur-driven government vehicle and bodyguard" pending finalisation of the divorce case.

The ABC leader is also married to 'MaIsaiah Thabane.

"As the youths of this country, we are deeply aggrieved by the killing of our mother, the First Lady, Mme Lipolelo Thabane, whose death has caused great shock and made headlines in Lesotho and internationally," Mr Shao said.

"It was a striking coincidence that she was killed just a day to go before her husband's inauguration as prime minister.

"We all know that she was supposed to be the First Lady as per the judgement of the High Court delivered by Justice Molefi Makara in 2015. We therefore appeal to the police to do right thing and not beat about the bush since the perpetrator in this matter is well known even by a toddler," Mr Shao said without elaborating on whom he meant.

Mr Shao said they were also "very disappointed" with the heckling of Anglican Church of Lesotho Bishop Mallane Adam Taaso during Dr Thabane's inauguration last Friday.

The cleric, who was representing the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), was booed off the podium by supporters of the new government while giving a sermon ahead of the swearing-in ceremony. The raucous supporters accused Bishop Taaso of supporting the outgoing regime.

"We saw legislators and their supporters booing and degrading a representative of the CCL, a body which has played such a massive role in reuniting politicians from all parties in situations where there were misunderstandings.

"The CCL has played a huge role from 1974 to 1992 up to now. It is the same CCL that has intervened in the standoff between the current prime minister and the former government. We were very disappointed by the heckling and appeal to supporters to refuse being derailed by their leaders."

Responding to the allegations, ABC Youth League President Taelo Ntsokotsane said the congress parties were taking advantage of a tragedy to score political points.

"It is quite unfortunate that the congress parties are taking advantage of our mourning at this trying time," he said.

"If they are sincere in claiming to know the assailants, they should report what they know to the police and help them with their investigations."

Mr Ntsokotsane pulled no punches on the heckling of Bishop Taaso, saying the cleric was booed because he had previously "acted like a politician".

They also cited Bishop Taaso's remarks during the inauguration of the outgoing seven-party regime on 17 March 2015.

Bishop Taaso had said the Dr Mosisili-led administration would "restore the dignity of Lesotho" with ABC supporters inferring that the cleric meant the dignity of Lesotho was lost during the Dr Thabane-led first coalition government which collapsed in 2014.

"As to the booing of Bishop Taaso, it's only fair to say that the reception was a true reflection of what he portrayed himself to the people," Mr Ntsokotsane said.

"We respect the church and the clergy; but in 2015 when we lost power and Ntate Mosisili was being inaugurated, his prayer reflected the fact that he was now a politician.

He added: "In any case, we tried to stop the bullying to no avail. It's very important for people, especially leaders, to portray themselves well in public.

"Bishop Taaso was not supposed to have attended the inauguration under the umbrella of the church, but should have gone there as an opposition politician."

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Clifford Molefe said they were aware of the allegations made by the congress parties and had urged them to bring the information.

"If they don't come to give us that information, we will approach them because it could be vital in finding a breakthrough in our ongoing investigations," he said.

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