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ON THE RUN PART I: ‘MAESAIAH ESCAPES ARREST

By Staff Writers

Maseru, Jan 11 (The Night’s Watch) – On television and in movies, we always see the bad guys get arrested and then taken down to the police station for questioning.

In real life, though, it does not always happen in that sequence.

Sometimes crime suspects are asked to come for questioning even before they are arrested.

That is why First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane was on Friday requested by police to report herself before the office of the Deputy commissioner of Police Criminal Investigations Division (C.I.D.) at police headquarters in Maseru at 11:00am.

‘Maesaiah was called in for questioning in connection with the assassination of the former first lady Lipolelo Thabane that occurred in June 2017, but she brazenly refused to present herself to police as requested without giving reasons.

This prompted police to get an arrest warrant from the Magistrate Court which authorised them to arrest her.

She was spotted at the State House – the official residence of the Prime Minister – but when police raided the residence on Friday evening, first lady was reportedly nowhere to be found, she had vanished into thin air.

“We searched the rooms but she was not there,” police sources said. “We are trying to do everything we can to locate her and take her into custody,” the sources added.

This has raised many questions over how ‘Maesaiah pulled off such an audacious act.

Police have reportedly described her as “a fugitive from justice”.

Lipolelo Thabane 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 Thomas Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister.

While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that ‘Maesaiah, is the mastermind behind the assassination.

This is probably because in 2014, during Thabane’s first go-round as Prime Minister, the High Court ruled that first lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not ‘Maesaiah who was Thabane’s customary wife at the time.

The judgment was a major blow to ‘Maesaiah, 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 ‘Maesaiah 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).

Hardly three months after Lipolelo’s death, on August 26, 2017, Thabane remarried ‘Maesaiah who then became first lady, officially.

In 2019, Thabane’s daughter, ‘Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, claimed publicly that ‘Maesaiah 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 ‘Maesaiah. Life without being a First Lady will never be sweet for her. Of all the First Ladies we have known, this one is enjoying the benefits that come with that position to the fullest. She has used that position in good and bad ways,” Hlaele said.

It was revealed this week that the prime minister Thabane’s cell phone was used at the murder scene.

That detail came to light as Thabane tried unsuccessfully to suspend Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli.

‘Maesaiah told MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism on Friday that she would never refuse to report herself to the police under normal circumstances.

She said she refused because she feared for her life after Commissioner Molibeli withdrew members of the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) stationed at the state house as her bodyguard.

She also told the Centre that the political tension between her spouse, Prime Minister Thabane, and Molibeli made her fear reporting herself to the police.

On January 3, 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.

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.

Consequently, the High Court on Thursday ordered that Thabane’s letter of suspending Molibeli from the office of the Commissioner of Police, “is hereby withdrawn, to the extent that it deals with the issue of suspension”.

The court also ordered that the letter of appointment dated January 6, 2020 appointing “Mr. Sera Makharilele to act as the commissioner of police is hereby withdrawn”.

‘Maesaiah also told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism that the police letter summoning her was received at her office on Friday at about 10:45am for her to report herself 15 minutes later, at 11:00am.

She said she found police not respectful of her being as a person to have afforded her such little time to report herself at the police headquarters, which is less than five-minute drive away from the state house. NW

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