Lesotho: Why Thabane Has Not Been Arrested Over Lipolelo Murder

8 September 2020

Despite being named as a suspect in the June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has still not been arrested or tried for the crime.

Some police sources have alleged that Mr Thabane has not been arrested on the orders of the government which fears a backlash from his supporters in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

Back in July 2020, some senior ABC officials including former cabinet minister and current Qoaling legislator, Chalane Phori, publicly threatened to topple the Moeketsi Majoro administration if Mr Thabane is arrested and charged alongside his current wife, 'Maesaiah.

They have threatened to "expose" Dr Majoro's own "dirty secrets" if the new premier does not give in to their demands to have the murder charges against Mr Thabane dropped.

However, police sources this week told this publication that the Majoro administration had given in to the Thabane loyalists' demands by ordering the police not to arrest Mr Thabane.

His wife, 'Maesaiah was arrested and charged with the Lipolelo murder on 5 February 2020. She is currently out on bail. The Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete stated in June that Mr Thabane would also be arrested and tried alongside 'Maesaiah.

On 6 July 2020, Mr Thabane even addressed a press conference at his Hillsview, Maseru home where he told his supporters he expected to appear in court the next day

The scheduled appearance was however, aborted at the last minute. At the time, DCP Mokete told this publication that the police were "tying up loose ends" before taking the former premier to court.

"We anticipate that he (Thabane) is likely to raise some points of law and we are trying to guard against those," DCP Mokete told the Lesotho Times.

"Last time he was supposed to appear in court he raised some technicalities so we do not want to be caught off guard. He will ultimately appear in court and be officially charged," DCP Mokete added.

Yesterday DCP Mokete refused to comment on the matter.

"I have chosen not to talk about this matter. I don't want to talk to you guys, talk to Ntate (police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti) Mopeli," DCP Mokete said.

On his part, Supt Mopeli said the police were still waiting for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane to pronounce herself on the matter.

"The matter is still with the office of the DPP. We are still waiting for the DPP Motinyane to finalise the issue," Supt Mopeli said. Adv Motinyane was not reachable on her mobile phone yesterday. She did not answer messages sent to her phone.

However, some police sources told this publication that the Majoro administration had ordered the police not to arrest Mr Thabane.

"There were orders from the government not to arrest Mr Thabane after his loyalists threatened to mobilise and topple the government if it failed to protect him from the ignominy of arrest and trial for murder," a source said. The source would not say who specifically gave the instruction.

Police and Public Safety Minister 'Mamoipone Senauoane denied allegations that the government had instructed the police to abandon plans to arrest Mr Thabane.

"I have not received such an order. My principals (Dr Majoro and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu) have not given me an order to tie the police's hands. Truly speaking there is nothing like that," Ms Senauoane said.

She said she was also in the dark as to why the former premier had not been arrested and tried, saying Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli had not briefed her on the matter since her appointment in May this year.

"The matter took place way before I came into office, so they (police) have not briefed me. I have also not taken the initiative to ask them for details of all their suspects in the murder case and their whereabouts. We have weekly meetings with the police boss for him to give me reports on what is happening in the police service but this one has never appeared in his weekly reports," she said.

ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa also appeared to be in the dark over the issue.

"This is a police matter. Both the police and the prosecuting authority must tell you why they have not charged him.

"We have been very clear on issues of rule of law. No one is above the law and every suspect must be charged regardless of their status. We will not bow down to pressure from our MPs. They can make all the threats they want but the ABC's national executive committee will not interfere with the independence of the police and the DPP," Mr Masoetsa said.

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