Ex-Lesotho PM Paid Killers $24,000 To Murder Estranged Wife – Police

In this file photo taken on August 19, 2017, Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane is seated at the Opening Session of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria. Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who was due to be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, failed to appear in court on medical grounds on February 21, 2020.
GULSHAN KHAN / AFP

 

Lesotho’s former prime minister Thomas Thabane and his wife paid assassins a down payment of $24,000 to kill his estranged wife Lipolelo three years ago, according to a police affidavit seen on Wednesday.

The details were the latest twist in a scandal that has rocked the southern African state and prompted Thabane to resign last month under pressure over accusations he hampered the investigation.

Thabane and his then-wife Lipolelo Thabane, 58, were in the middle of a bitter divorce when she was shot and killed outside her home two days before her husband’s 2017 inauguration.

Thabane has not yet been charged, but the police said he was involved in the plot to kill Lipolelo using hired killers and his wife Maesaiah is in custody accused of murder.

In an affidavit filed on Tuesday but seen by AFP on Wednesday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete said Thabane and Maesaiah “wanted the deceased dead so that (Maesaiah) …could assume the position of First Lady”.

Ex-premier “Thabane physically pointed out the residence of the deceased to his co-accused,” Mokete said.

Police have said they found Thabane’s mobile number in communications records from the crime scene.

Thabane has denied involvement in the murder. He married Maesaiah two months after the death of Lipolelo.

The police commissioner said the couple had promised to pay the killers the equivalent of $179,485, which was to be paid in instalments.

“They would be remunerated in cash… and through employment opportunities, should they carry out the murder of the deceased prior to (Thabane’s) inauguration as prime minister,” Mokete said.

Initial payments totalling 400,000 maloti ($23,931) were made after Lipolelo’s assassination on 14 June 2017, police said.

A first attempt to kill Lipolelo failed on 12 June 2017, police said.

One of the accused killers has since turned state witness.

Maesaiah, 43, was charged with murder in February and spent half a night in jail before a High Court freed her on a 1,000 maloti ($57) bail.

She returned to custody last week after a court revoked bail. She applied for fresh bail on Thursday and a hearing is scheduled for 16 June.

In the application, she sought release to allow her to take care of her “critically ill” husband who has “been diagnosed with an advanced prostate cancer” for which he underwent an operation in South Africa on 29 May 2020.

Police oppose the bail application.

Lesotho PM Steps Down Amid Murder Scandal

In this file photo taken on June 3, 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling statio in Maseru, during Lesotho's general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP
In this file photo taken on June 3, 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling statio in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Lesotho’s embattled Prime Minister Thomas Thabane announced his resignation on Monday, ending months of political uncertainty gripping the kingdom since he was accused of participating in his ex-wife’s murder.

Thabane’s political rivals have piled pressure on the prime minister to step down early over allegations that he had a hand in the brutal 2017 shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was divorcing.

His coalition was disbanded in parliament last week and he had been expected to resign by May 22, when a new government is due to be installed.

“I decided to personally come and inform you that I am stepping down as prime minister of Lesotho,” Thabane told supporters in his Abia home constituency on the outskirts of the capital Maseru.

The 80-year-old did not state when he would formally quit but government spokesman Nthakeng Selinyane said the premier would officially “announce his resignation” in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

“It is rather difficult to part ways with something that you had been accustomed to and leave people behind, but we all have to leave at some point,” Thabane added.

For the time being, he will remain leader of his ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), he said.

Thabane, whose term is due to end in 2022, had in January set himself a target of leaving office by July 31 because of his advanced age.

But Lesotho has been plagued by political instability since the start of this year, when police said they found Thabane’s mobile number in communications records from the scene of his estranged wife’s murder.

Political instability

The alleged evidence prompted rivals within and outside Thabane’s party to demand his immediate resignation.

Lipolelo Thabane, 58, was shot and killed outside her home two days before her husband’s inauguration in July.

The murder sent shock waves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

Thabane has denied involvement in the killing.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 43, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

She has already been charged with murder and is out on bail.

Thabane’s government collapsed after his coalition partners pulled out over his repeated refusal to leave office earlier than stated.

The ABC and main opposition Democratic Congress party have nominated Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro as Thabane’s successor.

Lesotho’s supreme traditional leader King Letsie III was advised by his council on Monday to appoint Majoro as prime minister, his senior private secretary Monehela Posholi said in a statement.

“Majoro will be sworn in as his successor tomorrow at 10 am (0800 GMT),” said ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa.

The ABC’s national executive committee is expected to hold a special conference in July to elect a new party leader.

While no premier has served out a full five-year term in Lesotho over the past decade, the octogenarian Thabane boasted in an interview with AFP last week that he has set an example to fellow African leaders who have a propensity to cling to power.

“I’m trying to set a precedent that leaders in Africa must volunteer to leave when they think it’s time to leave or at the very worst they must leave when their term ends.”

Lesotho’s Embattled PM Sends Army Into Streets To ‘Restore Order’

 

Lesotho’s embattled prime minister announced on Saturday he had sent troops onto the streets to “restore order”, accusing unnamed law enforcement agencies of undermining democracy.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is under pressure to step down after police said they suspect him of having a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017, a case that has thrown the country into political turmoil.

Saturday’s order comes just a day after the country’s constitutional court overturned a controversial decision by Thabane to suspend parliament.

In an address on public television, the 80-year-old leader said he had “deployed the army to take control of this situation and take necessary measures against these elements in alignment with the security orders and restore peace and order”.

“This is to avoid putting the nation in danger,” he said.

 

 

A highly placed government source said police commissioner Holomo Molibeli, his deputy Paseka Mokete and another senior police officer have been arrested by the army.

“The general informed the prime minister that he has arrested Holomo, Mokete… They are temporarily detained at Makoanyane Barracks,” the source told AFP in the capital Maseru.

There was a heavy presence of armed soldiers, in bulletproof vests and helmets, patrolling the streets.

Other soldiers drove around Maseru in armoured cars.

The premier said he was “surprised” that some “institutions entrusted with maintaining order and adhering to law are busy tarnishing the very principles” of the country’s stability and democracy.

He said the army would also help enforce a 24-day coronavirus lockdown in the country, which has so far not recorded a single case.

The prime minister’s order is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom.

– ‘Plot to topple government’ –

The murder accusations against Thabane came after communications records from the scene of his estranged wife’s murder included the prime minister’s mobile phone number.

His order deploying the army comes a day after the constitutional court set aside his decision to suspend parliament for three months.

In March, Thabane imposed a three-month suspension of parliament shortly after the national assembly passed a bill barring him from calling fresh elections if he loses a no-confidence vote hanging over his head.

Last month, he ordered the security forces and intelligence service to probe his ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party rivals, whom he accused of plotting to topple his government.

Citing his advanced age, the prime minister had earlier this year offered to step down from office by July 31 following the accusation of his possible involvement in the murder of his then estranged wife.

He faces allegations he acted in “common purpose” in the killing of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

Lipolelo’s murder, two days before his inauguration as prime minister, sent shock waves through the tiny picturesque mountainous kingdom of 2.2 million people.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 43, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case and has already been charged.

– ‘Misusing the security forces’ –

Thabane’s ABC rivals are pushing for his early departure and have teamed up with opposition with the goal of forming a coalition government.

Lesotho has a long history of political turmoil.

It has been more than a decade since a prime minister served out a full five-year term in the country which is completely landlocked by South Africa.

The opposition and analysts say the prime minister is instigating stability in the country by pitting the police against the military.

Mathibeli Mokhothu, leader of the largest opposition party the Democratic Congress, said Thabane’s order was triggered by Friday’s court ruling.

“He is misusing the security forces. This is creating conflict between the army and police.

“He is the one who is destabilising peace in Lesotho,” Mokhothu told AFP.

Motlamelle Kapa, a political science professor at the National University of Lesotho said Thabane “has lost control because he himself is not behaving like a PM”.

“The current situation is a struggle between the police and the courts of law where they are trying to bring the executive to order and make them account for their wrongs.

“This is not the first time we see things reeling out of position when police try to call the Prime Minister to order,” Kapa said.

Lesotho PM In Court Over Murder Of Estranged Wife

Prime Minister of Lesotho/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appeared in court on Monday over the murder of his estranged wife after a weekend in which he was said to be receiving emergency medical care in South Africa.

In the latest twist of a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom, the 80-year-old premier attended the magistrate’s court in the capital Maseru, an AFP correspondent reported.

Charges had been expected to be formally read out to him for allegedly acting in “common purpose” in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

But after a brief sitting, the matter was deferred to the High Court and the prime minister was not formally charged.

He was accompanied by his current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death and who is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

She has already been charged with murder and is out on bail.

Defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika argued that Thabane should not be charged as long as he remained a prime minister.

“My client cannot be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law,” said Letsika, adding the beleaguered premier was “entitled to immunity” because of his status.

During the hearing, the lawyer asked whether a sitting prime minister should be subject to criminal prosecution as this could mean that he be placed in custody.

Thabane had initially been due in court on Friday for the preliminary appearance but was a no-show, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

His aide initially said Thabane had gone to neighbouring South Africa for “routine” health checks, but later his office said he was seeking “emergency” medical attention and would appear in court on his return.

 Appeared nervous 

On Saturday police said Thabane’s sick note said that the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

Wearing a navy-blue striped suit with a powder-blue shirt and flanked by his spouse, Thabane appeared nervous as the couple sat on one of the court benches.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shockwaves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in Maseru just two days before her husband took office. The couple had been embroiled in a bitter divorce.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

The case has piled pressure on Thabane to step down.

His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has accused him of hampering investigations into the killing and asked him to leave.

Last week Thabane announced on national radio and television that he would retire by July 31, citing his advanced age.

But at the weekend speculation mounted that he could go earlier than expected.

The main opposition party the Democratic Congress, on Friday filed in parliament a motion of no confidence in the prime minister and his administration.

If Thabane loses the motion, he could either step down or advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.

AFP

Lesotho Police Postpone PM Court Appearance Over Wife’s Murder

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 19, 2017 Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane is seated at the Opening Session of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government at the OR Tambo Building in Pretoria.
GULSHAN KHAN / AFP

 

Lesotho police on Saturday said they would wait for the prime minister’s return from “sick leave” to resume a court case in which he is suspected of murdering his estranged wife.

Thomas Thabane, 80, is accused of having acted in “common purpose” in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was divorcing.

He had been due in court for a preliminary appearance on Friday, where he was expected to be formally charged.

But the prime minister traveled instead to neighbouring South Africa for health reasons, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

Deputy Police Commissioner Palesa Mokete, however, said Thabane’s lawyers had sent him a “sick leave note” claiming the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

“While we admit that is quite coincidental, we shall have our own means to ascertain this state of affairs,” Mokete told AFP on Saturday, adding that he had “no reason to doubt” the document.

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He said no arrest warrant has been issued as yet and that “new arrangements” would be made for Thabane once he was “fit for an appearance”.

Lipolelo Thabane’s murder sent shock waves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million that has a long history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru just two days before her husband took office.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

His current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death, is considered a co-conspirator and has already been charged with murder.

The premier has faced pressure to resign by senior party officials, who accused him of hampering investigations into the killing.

He announced earlier this week that he would step down on July 31.

In his inaugural speech, Thabane had described his wife’s murder as a “senseless killing”. He and Maesaiah — who at the time had the status of a “customary wife” — both attended Lipolelo’s funeral.

AFP

Police To Charge Lesotho PM With Murder Of Wife

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, who was gunned down ahead of his inauguration in 2017, police said Thursday, as the beleaguered premier announced he would quit by the end of July.

Lilopelo Thabane, 58, was killed in June 2017 by unknown assailants on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, two days before the premiere, now aged 80, took office.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo was murdered in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Her death shook the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Police investigations found that communications records from the day of the murder included his cell phone number.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP that the 80-year-old prime minister “will be formally charged with… murder”.

“It does not necessarily mean he was there but that he was acting in common purpose,” Mokete said.

The case also drew in the prime minister’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who has also been charged with the same murder of her rival.

“She was charged under common purpose even though she did not pull the trigger, but people she was acting in consent with pulled the trigger,” said Mokete by phone.

Sporting a bright yellow outfit complete with a matching headscarf, she sat straight-faced, next to the prime minister during his inauguration that was held at a stadium in Maseru, two days after the murder.

The long unresolved murder had plunged the PM’s leadership into question, forcing his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to ask him to resign.

 ‘Old man should go’ 

The ABC had given him until Thursday to step aside but he snubbed their deadline, instead of saying he will only go by July 31.

“I effectively retire as prime minister with effect from the end of July this year, or at an earlier date if all the requisite preparations for my retirement are completed before then,” he said in an address on national radio.

He said the decision to step “has been the hardest to make in my over half-a-century career as in the public service. I have been battling with this idea for over a year now”.

“The truth is at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I used to be a few years ago,” he added.

“I hope that the remaining months that I will spend in office will afford parliament and my party enough time to work on transitional arrangements.”

Thabane’s re-election in 2017 had brought hopes of stability to Lesotho, a country with a long history of turmoil.

He first came to power in 2012 as head of the country’s first coalition government, formed after an inconclusive vote.

But his second term was rocked by Lipolelo’s murder and ructions in the ruling party, buffeting the picturesque kingdom of 2.2 million people.

Opposition parties and many ordinary people in the country also want Thabane gone.

“It defies logic how he still wants to remain in office despite the controversy that surrounds him,” said street vendor Malefa Mpobole, 42.

Another citizen, Lenka Ntjabane, 43, said: “This old man should just go. He should just take his wife and go”.

AFP

Lesotho PM To Resign Over Alleged Links To Wife’s Murder

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

 

Lesotho’s prime minister has bowed to pressure to step down over evidence allegedly linking him to the murder of his estranged wife, the ruling party said Thursday.

Senior members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused Thomas Thabane of hampering investigations into the killing.

They called for his resignation last week.

In June 2017, unidentified assailants gunned down his wife, Lipolelo Thabane, 58, on the outskirts of Lesotho’s capital Maseru, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

The brutal murder was brought back into the limelight last week by a letter from Lesotho’s police chief Holomo Molibeli.

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It claimed that communication records from the day of the crime picked up Thabane’s mobile phone number.

Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and candidate Tom Thabane (C) casts his ballot at a polling station in Maseru, during Lesotho’s general election.   AFP

The letter — dated December 23, 2019 — became public in court documents filed by Molibeli after Thabane tried to suspend him over a separate matter.

“Mr Thabane has already made known his decision to resign to the cabinet in its seating on Tuesday,” ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told AFP on Thursday.

He said the next step for the party was to appoint a replacement, which would then need to be approved by parliament.

“There is no exact date in place as to when Thabane shall step down but it’s going to be soon,” Masoetsa added.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shock waves through the tiny poverty-stricken nation, which is entirely ringed by South Africa.

At the time his estranged wife was killed Thabane, now 80 years old, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings with her.

Meanwhile, police have been unable to trace Thabane’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, since she failed to appear for questioning on January 10.

A court has issued a warrant for her arrest, which she unsuccessfully appealed.

Other high-profile figures have since also been summoned to provide information on the case, including the minister of water affairs and the government secretary.

“Government cannot be above (the) law,” Communications Minister Thesele Maseribane told reporters in Maseru.

“We would like to see her (Maesaiah Thabane) back home and go to the courts like everybody else.”

AFP

Lesotho ‘Coup’: Prime Minister Returns After Fleeing

LesothoLesotho’s Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, has returned home after fleeing the mountain kingdom to neighbouring South Africa on Saturday.

Thabane, who has been in a fractious coalition government with his political rival, Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, left for neighbouring South Africa on Saturday (August 30) after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, and gunshots rang out.

One policeman was shot dead and four others wounded during the confrontation, according to police.

At the time of fleeing, Thabane had accused the military of staging a coup. Regional leaders rejected his call for troops to be deployed to restore order.

The army denied trying to force the Prime Minister out of power, saying it had moved against police officers suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the small southern African kingdom.

The unrest is thought to be linked to a struggle between Mr Thabane, reportedly supported by the police, and Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, said to have the loyalty of the army.

Diplomats in Maseru told Reuters on Saturday that the army was largely seen as loyal to the Deputy Prime Minister, while the police force largely supported the Prime Minister.

Regional power, South Africa, condemned the army’s actions and later invited the Deputy Prime Minister to talks there on Sunday, Lesotho’s Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Selibe Mochoboroane, said. He did not specify who the talks would be with.

Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, has, however, taken charge of the government after the Prime Minister fled.

People on the streets of Maseru said the situation appeared to be returning to normality.

Mr Thabane has headed a unity government since elections in May 2012, but suspended parliament sessions in June to avoid a vote of no confidence amid feuding in his coalition.

Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, has experienced several coups since independence in 1966.