Former First Lady 'Maesaiah Thabane was feted like a hero upon her release on bail on Tuesday by family members including a stepson, Potlako Thabane, and hordes of opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) members including its secretary-general, Mahali Phamotse.
In a thinly veiled attack on his sister, 'Mabatšoeneng Hlaele (nee Nkoya Thabane,) and his own son Thomas Thabane Jr, Potlako asked those gathered at 'Maesaiah's Hillsview home in Maseru to pray for the duo and the entire Thabane family. He said the war for 'Maesaiah's freedom was far from over because of "enemies within".
Although the bail was granted by High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo on Monday evening, 'Maesaiah was only released the next day after paying the M10 000 bail deposit. Her bail conditions were also read out to her on Tuesday by Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate Thamae Thamae.
The court proceedings were conducted in the absence of family members and the public in line with health regulations barring large gatherings to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19). Only lawyers, court officials and the media were allowed to attend the proceedings.
Upon arrival at her Hillsview home on Tuesday, 'Maesaiah was given a rapturous welcome by hordes of well-wishers who included Potlako, Dr Phamotse and Stadium Area legislator Mokherane Tsatsanyane.
A fortnight ago, Mr Tsatsanyane dumped the Thomas Thabane-led All Basotho Convention (ABC), saying he remained loyal to Mr Thabane who was ousted by his own party from the post of prime minister last month.
The flamboyant MP even organised a convoy of luxury cars and superbikes which hooted and performed stunts from the Maseru prison where 'Maesaiah had been incarcerated right up to her nearby Hillsview home. In a clear demonstration of the fissures in the ABC, only two of its legislators, well-known Thabane loyalists Lehlohonolo Moramotse (Lithoteng constituency) and Samonyane Ntsekele (Tsikoane) attended 'Maesaiah's ceremony.
The normally vivacious former first lady hardly said a word. Resplendent in a black and white sweater with a blanket draped around her waist, she stood at the doorway of her garage and quietly soaked in the adulation. Potlako, a son of Mr Thabane from his first marriage, later told the gathering that she was tired and she should therefore be spared from addressing them.
Mr Potlako then asked everyone to pray for his sister Nkoya and his son, Thomas Thabane Jr. The duo strenuously opposed 'Maesaiah's bail application, describing her as a dangerous killer who could still organise hits on witnesses to prevent them from testifying against her.
However, Potlako filed an affidavit in support of his step-mother, saying she was a loving wife who should be released to care for their nonagenarian father who he said was terminally ill. He said Nkoya abandoned Mr Thabane last year in anger over the dismissal of her husband, Lebohang Hlaele, from cabinet in February 2019. Mr Hlaele served as Law and Constitutional Affairs minister before he was fired by Mr Thabane for supporting Professor Nqosa Mahao for the deputy leadership of the ABC.
Potlako asked those in attendance to pray for their family as the war "was far from over because of enemies within".
"We thank you for your prayers as you can see that 'M'e ('Maesaiah) is home. She has asked to be excused from addressing you because she is tired.
"It was not an easy journey for my father who spend almost a month without his wife. However, this is a start of another journey.
"It is more painful that the enemy comes from within. Please pray for my sister (Nkoya) and my son (Thabane Jr) for them to remember that they are still members of the Thabane family," Potlako said.
Dr Phamotse, a former Minister of Justice and Correctional Services in Mr Thabane's government, thanked God for the safe return of 'Maesaiah and said the AD would always support her.
"I have been a minister in charge of that place (prisons) and I know it's not a place one would wish to spend time at. I can imagine what you went through and we thank God that you are still well. As you know the AD has always been by your side, visiting you in that place. I promise that we will continue to be by your side and we hope this release means the end of this traumatising thing," Dr Phamotse said. Until last month, the Monyane Moleleki-led AD was in government alongside Mr Thabane's ABC, Thesele 'Maseribane's Basotho National Party (BNP) and Keketso Rantšo's Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).
However, the ABC's national executive committee resolved to exclude the AD from its new coalition with the Democratic Congress on the grounds that it had opposed the ABC's moves to oust Mr Thabane. The BNP and RCL have been included in the new government and their leaders rewarded with cabinet appointments. Dr Phamotse was once dressed down by 'Maesaiah at a function at Sesotho Stadium after she was accused of disrespecting Mr Thabane while he was still premier. However, the new spirit of camaraderie displayed this week showed the hatchet has been buried.