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Lesotho Prime Minister’s mobile-phone used in wife assassination

…Police Boss says his suspension by Thabane is just a ploy to scuttle investigations into Lipolelo’s assassination

KEISO MOHLOBOLI

Police investigations into the fatal shooting of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, unearthed usage of his mobile phone to communicate with the assassinators, the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (the centre) has learnt.

Lipolelo was killed at the age 58 on June 14, 2017, at Ha ‘Masana, about 35 kilometres south of Maseru City.

His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Thabane and Maesiah at his inauguration after Lipolelo’s assassination

This was on the eve of her husband’s inauguration as prime minister and she was expected to assume the status of first lady.

Prior to her killing, Lipolelo and Thabane were undergoing a protracted divorce in the courts but remained eligible for the First Lady status until the divorce was finalised.

But her assassination ended the long court battle for divorce and left Thabane open option to take on a new wife.

Which he did on August 26, 2017, hardly three months after Lipolelo’s shocking murder, when he married Liabiloe Ramoholi, named ‘Maesiah Thabane.

Now, in a related development, the Prime Minister Thabane has slapped Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli with a 60 days suspension after being interdicted by High Court from imposing a forced leave on the latter.

But Molibeli sees Thabane’s actions as an attempt to frustrate police investigations into the murder of his estranged wife.

“I can only confirm writing the letters you are questioning me about and indeed I suspect my forced leave or rather my suspension was a result of my letter to the Prime Minister,” Molibeli told the Centre.

The Police commissioner’s letters showing progress in the investigation into the killing of Lipolelo come after Thabane’s daughter publicly announcing she had given police a tip-off that would point them in the direction of who orchestrated the killing of her stepmother.

Born Nkoya Thabane, and now named ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, Thabane’s daughter made this public claims in November 2019 saying “she is well informed that his father’s third wife, Liabiloe (‘Maesiah Thabane), ordered Lipolelo’s assassination”.

When Thabane wedded ‘Maesiah

Neither PM Thabane nor the First Lady (‘Maesiah Thabane) challenged these claims publicly.

The letter of December 23, 2019, referred to by Molibeli has since been leaked. In this letter, Molibeli demands answers from premier Thabane on the involvement of his mobile phone at the time of his wife’s shooting.

Headlined “Status of Investigations regarding assassination of Mrs Lipolelo Thabane – Pitso Ground RCI: 25/06/17”, the letter partly reads; “please note… investigations regarding the assassination of Mrs Lipolelo Thabane that occurred on the 14th of June 2017 are still continuing”.

“In this particular case, we have sought and engaged assistance of the external experts from SADC region. Further, we have asked for assistance of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) from the United States of America.

“Among other things, the investigations reveal that there was a telephonic communication at the scene of crime in question and that cell-phone number 58852877 was involved in that communication with another cell-phone, known to the police, at the time of assassination of Mrs Lipolelo Thabane.

“The investigations further indicate that the aforementioned cell-phone number belongs to you”.

The police commissioner also told the Prime Minister in the letter that the police request his explanation regarding Lipolelo’s murder background information.

But, Prime Minister’s press attaché Relebohile Moyeye when contacted for comment by the Centre said Thabane had not received the Police commissioner’s letter about investigations at his official Prime Minister’s Office or in his individual capacity as a person”.

Thabane is expected to explain the following to the police as part of investigations into Lipolelo’s murder:

Name of the person your cell-phone was communicating with,

His / her place of residence as well as his / her recent contact details,

What was the subject matter of the aforementioned communication?

Any other information you may find pertinent in assisting in the success of this investigation”.

The centre has also seen two letters written by Molibeli to the United States of America’s Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, and the South African Police Service National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khehla Sithole, respectively.

In the December 2019 letter written to Gonzales, Molibeli requested assistance to be provided with polygraphic equipment and polygraph personnel from the federal Bureau of Investigations to help Lesotho police with interviews of the identified suspects in the murder of Lipolelo.

On the other hand, Lt Gen Sithole is requested in Molibeli’s letter of December 2019 to assist with the crime scene reconstruction expert named in the letter as Lieutenant Colonel Mangena.

Speaking to the Centre, Molibeli, who was reluctant to give a detailed interview, confirmed writing to Thabane, Gonzales and Sithole.

Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli

“I am in consultation with my legal advisors and without getting into any further details I can only confirm writing the letters you are questioning me about and indeed I suspect my forced leave or rather my suspension was a result of my letter to the PM,” he said.

“What surprised me with the said suspension is the quoted Section 5 (1), (3) and (4) of Police Act No. 7 of 1998 because there is no provision of suspension of the commissioner at all.

“They have to stop beating about the bush and use the powers provided by that section. They can use it to take me to retirement, not suspension,” Molibeli added.

He said being suspended for 60 days, among others for not holding hands with the national soccer team was just a tactic to build an unfounded case.

In November 2019, Thabane’s daughter Advocate Hlaele made public claims that she is well informed that the First Lady ‘Maesiah Thabane ordered Lipolelo’s fatal assassination.

She further said she and the police had evidence that her stepmother organised that shooting.

Hlaele threatened to disclose further information about Lipolelo’s death if her stepmother continues to ill speak about her husband.

Hlaele, was referring to a spat in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane party over leadership positions which has a faction of her husband—Lebohang Hlaele—embroiled in a protracted dispute against a faction aligned to her father.

“I have seen Lipolelo’s docket at the police. Between me and Ntate Thabane one of us married a murderer,” she said.

Following the letters, the Police Commissioner started new year of 2020 with a warning slap of forced 60 days leave which was later metamorphosed into a suspension letter dated January 03, 2020.

This abrupt change from forced leave came immediately after Molibeli defied the prime minister’s orders and obtained a court interdict.

Contacted for comment, Thabane’s press attaché Relebohile Moyeye said the letter in question has not been received by Thabane.

“The Right Honourable Prime Minister hasn’t received any letter. The Government Secretary (Moahloli Mphaka) told me that there is no such letter, either at PM’s office or in his individual capacity as a person”.

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