By Staff Writers
Maseru, Jan 6 (The Night’s Watch) – Beleaguered Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s testimony to the High Court, as contained in his affidavit which was leaked on Sunday night, has placed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane at the front and centre of the assassination of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane.
Lipolelo was shot dead by unknown assailants as she was about to drive into her Ha ‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.
While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that Thabane’s young customary wife, ‘Maesiah Thabane, is the mastermind behind the assassination.
This is probably because in early 2015, during Thabane’s first go-round as Prime Minister, the High Court ruled that First Lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not ‘Maesiah.
The judgment was a major blow to ‘Maesiah, as it effectively recognised Lipolelo as Thabane’s rightful wife and First Lady, at least pending the finalization of a divorce case Thabane instituted against Lipolelo.
The judgment banned ‘Maesiah from “performing any functions and exercising any rights vested in the applicant (Lipolelo) as the First Spouse in terms of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Retirement and Spouses’ Benefits) Act, 2011 (Act No: 10 of 2011).
In 2019, Thabane’s daughter, ‘Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, claimed publicly that ‘Maesiah ordered Lipolelo’s hit.
Hlaele said there was no reason his 80-year old father was still a prime minister. She said Thabane was holding onto power to protect certain people’s interests.
“The first beneficiary of Mr Thabane’s premiership is the First Lady ‘Maesiah. Life without being a First Lady will never be sweet for her. Of all the First Ladies we have known, this is one enjoying the benefits that come with that position to the fullest. She has used that position in a good way and in a bad way,” Hlaele said.
Now, in an unprecedented turn of events, Police Commissioner Molibeli who is facing the axe, has thrown down the gauntlet against the politically powerful Thabane and implicated the Prime Minister in Lipolelo’s murder.
In an explosive affidavit, Molibeli claimed that: “I wish to take this Honourable Court into my confidence and disclose that in the investigation of the murder of one Lipolelo Thabane, the 1st Respondent (Thabane) is implicated. I have sought expert evidence in the matter both from RSA (Republic of South Africa) and the US (United States of America).”
Molibeli, who is the sole applicant in the case, is asking the High Court for an order declaring that his suspension from office by Thabane, with immediate effect, is “irregular, unlawful, illegal, and null and void ab initio”.
Last Friday Thabane purportedly suspended Molibeli “from office of Commissioner of Police for 60 days” pending investigations to determine the latter’s fitness or preparedness to hold the office.
“Therefore, the suspension is with immediate effect and restricts you from interfering with the entire Lesotho Mounted Police Service and its premises,” said acting government secretary Emmanuel Lesoma in a letter to Molibeli on January 3.
Lesoma also requested Molibeli to show representations in writing within seven working days on receipt of the letter, “as to why The Right Honourable the Prime Minister may not advise the King to retire you from Office of the Commissioner of Police”.
This was after the High Court had suspend Thabane’s letter that instructed Molibeli to proceed to a forced leave with effect from January 2 – the first attempt to get Molibeli out of office.
Molibeli told the court that the decision to suspend him was made “mala fide” (in bad faith) and to achieve ulterior motives harboured by Thabane against him.
Though in form Molibeli’s application is an attempt to get Thabane off his back, it appears an additional motive is to force information about the Lipolelo’s assassination into the public domain.
Molibeli attached to his application, the highly-confidential letters (marked Annexure D collectively) he wrote to the National Commissioner of South African Police Service (SAPS) Khehla Sitole, the United States Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales and Thabane regarding the murder.
In the letter to the Sitole, titled Request for SAPS Assistance with Crime Scene Reconstruction of the Murder Case, Molibeli noted that: “Please be informed that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service is investigating a high profile murder case that occurred in 2017. Looking at the circumstances surrounding this case, we are of the view that reconstruction of the scene of crime, regarding this case, from external Forensic Expert is needed.
“The South African Police Service (SAPS) has been assisting in this very case with the forensic expert evidence under the capable leadership, in this area, of one of your own officers, lieutenant Colonel Mangena.
“It is on this basis of the above context that the services of Lt. Col. Mangena for reconstruction of the scene are herewith requested. Your customary cooperation will be highly appreciated.”
The letter was written on November 25, 2019.
In the letter to Gonzales on December 23, 2019 and titled: Request for Assistance: Polygraph Personnel from FBI, Molibeli noted that: “Please note that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service is investigating a high profile case in which, due to its gravity and sensitivity, the usage of modern technology is of utmost importance to the said investigation thereof.
“It is on the basis of the foregoing that your assistance is requested to provide us with the polygraphic equipment and polygraph personnel from the federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to assist with interview of the identified suspects.”
On the same day, Molibeli also wrote to Thabane.
He said: “Please note, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Sir that the investigations regarding the assassination of Mrs Lipolelo Thabane that occurred on the 14th of June 2017 are still continuing.”
In this particular case, Molibeli continued, “we have sought and engaged assistance of the external experts from SADC Region. Further we have asked for the assistance of Federal bureau of Investigations (FBI) from the United States of America”.
He indicated that among other things, the investigations revealed that that there was a telephonic communication at the scene of crime in question and that the cell phone number 58****77 was involved in that communication with another cell phone, known to the police, at the time of assassination of Mrs Thabane.
He said the investigations further indicated that the aforementioned cell phone number belongs to Thabane.
“The Lesotho Mounted Police Service hereby kindly requests your explanation regarding the above background information. Your explanation is expected to cover the following:
- Name of a person your cell phone was communicating with.
- His/her place of residence as well as his/her current contacts.
- What was the subject matter of the aforementioned communication?
- Any other information you may find pertinent in assisting successful completion of this investigation.”
In an interview with the Lesotho Times in November 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lesego Makgothi said the investigations into the murder of Lipolelo had stalled as the trail had gone cold.
Makgothi however, would reportedly not say what challenges had been encountered. He said despite the hiccups the cabinet had been assured that the case remained on the police’s priority list of murder investigations.
In September the same year, the former SADC Oversight Committee chairperson, Matias Matondo had reportedly said the SADC Oversight Committee and the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho (SAMPIL) knew what transpired in the assassination of Lipolelo.
Matondo reportedly said: “Those issues are so sensitive that although we do not publish their results we actually know what happened. We worked alongside our LMPS colleagues, we took all the evidence at the crime scenes, and we have all the exhibits. There are certain things that the SAMPIL has been doing on the ground that are not for public consumption.” NW