Lesotho: 'Maesaiah Faces New Criminal Charges

Former first lady Maesaiah Thabane (file photo).

Murder-accused former First Lady 'Maesaiah Thabane faces fresh criminal charges for allegedly assaulting a Maseru man in 2019.

But in a bizarre twist, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has also been asked to prosecute police commissioner Holomo Molibeli and one of his top assistants Beleme Lebajoa for abuse of office after they allegedly protected the once powerful first lady from facing prosecution in that assault case then.

The request to prosecute 'Maesaiah and Messrs Molibeli and Lebajoa was curiously submitted to DPP Hlalefang Motinyane by Commissioner Molibeli's subordinate, Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Motlatsi Mapola, last Friday.

The latest development comes in the wake of serious accusations against Commissioner Molibeli that he only moved to prosecute 'Maesaiah and her husband, Thomas Thabane, over the June 2017 murder of the former prime minister's ex-wife, Lipolelo, after he had fallen out with the former first couple.

In the latest case, 'Maesaiah is accused of assaulting one Thesele Matela at the State House on 2 January 2019. This after Mr Matela had accidentally phoned Mr Thabane to the annoyance of 'Maesaiah. Mr Matela is alleged to have been later "kidnapped" by the police and taken to State House in the boot of a car. He then received a heavy hiding at the hands of 'Maesaiah and her friends.

He was allegedly left bloodied and bruised after the assault by 'Maesaiah and a group of her female friends. 'Maesaiah is currently on bail on charges of murdering Lipolelo on 14 June 2017.

In a bizarre turn, ACP Mapola also recommends the prosecution of his boss Commissioner Molibeli and ACP Lebajoa for allegedly defeating the ends of justice by protecting 'Maesaiah from Mr Matela's assault charges.

Commissioner Molibeli and the Thabanes fell out about six months ago after Mr Thabane attempted to fire the police boss for alleged incompetence. Commissioner Molibeli denied the allegations and insisted Mr Thabane only wanted to get rid of him because he had investigated the ex-premier and 'Maesaiah for Lipolelo's murder.

But when Mr Matela's alleged assault happened, the police boss and the Thabanes had still been on good terms. Commissioner Molibeli had then allegedly protected 'Maesaiah instead of having her charged with assault.

According to ACP Mapola, Commissioner Molibeli abused his power by failing to protect Mr Matela against the then powerful first lady.

He accuses Commissioner Molibeli of selfishness. He alleges that the police boss only stood up to 'Maesaiah and charged her with murder because his own position as commissioner was under threat.

During her time as first lady, 'Maesaiah gained notoriety for her fiery temper and penchant to humiliate all and sundry over even minor transgressions. Senior government officials who stood in her way were routinely lampooned. She was also accused of assaulting a Ha Tšolo woman, 'Manthatisi Mabuthile, in July 2018. This after a misunderstanding over Ms Mabuthile's sister who had been hit by one of 'Maesaiah's office cars transporting her staff from a cancer awareness road show.

In the Matela case, it is said 'Maesaiah was angered by the fact that the former had called her husband. Mr Thabane is said to have answered his mobile phone when Mr Matela "accidentally" called him in search of a job. According to the "Summary Report of the Case of Thesele Matela", seen by this publication this week, Mr Matela was not even aware that he was calling the then prime minister. 'Maesaiah was known to take umbrage with people who called her husband and would on many occasions answer the calls herself and cut the callers off.

"The complainant (Mr Matela) was looking for a job and he was given the cellphone of a taxi owner to call," ACP Mapola states in the summary docket submitted to the DPP.

"It appears he might have missed a digit and the call was received by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. A misunderstanding ensued (as he explained) that he had called a wrong number. But the complainant insisted he was looking for a job (sic).

"The conversation was cut but a few minutes later, he (Mr Matela) received a call from the same number. At this time, a female voice introduced herself as the First Lady 'Maesaiah Thabane. She was very rude and threats of arrest were made."

ACP Mapola said Mr Matela later heard that the police were looking for him. He was eventually "kidnapped" at Lekhaloaneng, a few days after his phone call to Mr Thabane.

He said Mr Matela was unlawfully detained at the police headquarters by ACP Lebajoa and his team on 2 January 2019. ACP Lebajoa's rank at the time is given as that of inspector despite that he had been promoted to ACP in 2018.

ACP Mapola states that Mr Matela was taken to State House the following day and handed over to 'Maesaiah, who was in the company of a group of women, who then all assaulted him.

"Afterwards, he (Mr Matela) was handed over to the police and at the police headquarters, he was ordered to wash his hands stained with blood and released. There were no charges against him. All the police registers don't reflect his arrest and detention nor a case opened against him.

"He reported the matter to his mother who took him to Thamae Police to open a case of kidnaping and assault but was not given any help...

"The victim and his mother reported to ACP Mapola who sent police officers to escort the mother and victim to Thamae Police Post and a case was opened... After they opened the case, she was influenced to see the commissioner of police as it was said the matter (sic), if not handled properly, would cause a public outcry.

"She found the Commissioner (Molibeli) who called the prime minister and told him that the assaulted child was complaining. He (Commissioner Molibeli) arranged transport and ordered Insp Lebajoa to take the mother to State House. There the mother met with the first lady and prime minister."

The following week, according to ACP Mapola, ACP Lebajoa called the victim's mother to his office and gave her M5000 "as medical expenses and ordered never to utter a word about the incident".

A case of assault was eventually opened against 'Maesaiah despite all these machinations. He said the deputy officer commanding Thamae Police Post (name not stated) was "strangely" ordered by ACP Lebajoa to hand over the docket to one Superintendent Bokopane.

He said ACP Lebajoa told the Ha Thamae cops he was acting on Commissioner Molibeli's instructions.

ACP Mapola accuses Commissioner Molibeli of "flagrant abuse of power" through his entire handling of the case. He alleges that the police boss and ACP Lebajoa "acted in complicit and in common purpose with the first lady to commit the aggravated assault".

"The intention of the mother and victim has always been to open a case of assault and unlawful detention but when they got to the commissioner of police, he directed them to the suspects and arranged for transport.

"Clearly, he (Commissioner Molibeli) did not act in accordance with the demands of his office, namely (to launch an) investigation of the matter and to take the same to court. He aided and abetted the commission of crime. He even ordered the removal of the docket from Ha Thamae... Later arrangements were made to close the docket and return it to the police headquarters," ACP Mapola says.

ACP Mapola therefore wants Commissioner Molibeli, ACP Lebajoa and 'Maesaiah to all face the music.

"The following people have to be charged: ACP Lebajoa and his team; Liabiloe Maesaiah Thabane and Holomo Molibeli with defeating the course of justice.

"He (Commissioner Molibeli) ought to have protected the victim the first day his mother came. Instead he protected the former first lady from humiliation and acted unreasonably.

"He also failed to take legal action against his officers for taking instructions from the first lady to take the victim by force and present him to the state house for a beating. This was a dereliction of duty constituting a defeat of justice. But when the odds were against him (Commissioner Molibeli), he was able to stand against the first lady and charged her with murder," ACP Mapola said.

DPP Motinyane is yet to decide on the matter. Commissioner Molibeli, ACP Lebajoa and 'Maesaiah were not reachable on their mobile phones for comment on this particular case yesterday.

But if true, the case is confirmation that Commissioner Molibeli only acted against the Thabanes after his cushy job was under threat, and not out of virtuous pursuit of justice.

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