Claims she fears for her life and barricades self in statehouse
Investigations on her sister wife’s fatal shooting continue
Lesotho’s first lady, Maesiah Thabane’s brazen refusal to report to police earlier and later afternoon resisting arrest has left the country shocked after learning she was summoned to help police with investigations into the assassination of Lipolelo Thabane.
The police, according to police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli have since acquired a warrant of arrest for the first lady, Maesiah after her refusal to report herself to the police and are currently at the Statehouse to effect the arrest.
But, Maesiah is according to sources barricaded in the statehouse and has denied police entry amid a warrant for her arrest issued by the Magistrate Court.
In the middle of the unfolding development, Maesiah has told MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (the Centre) she would never refuse to report herself to the police under normal circumstances, but today refused because she “feared for my life” after police commissioner Holomo Molibeli withdrew members of the special operations unit stationed at the statehouse as her bodyguards.
She further argues the political tension between her spouse, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Commissioner Molibeli made her fear reporting herself to the police.
This is after Maesiah received a letter dated January 10 penned by Criminal Investigations Division boss, Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete.
Mokete was summoning Maesiah to the police headquarters in regard to an ongoing investigation into the fatal shooting of her ‘sister wife’ Lipolelo.
Police investigations into the fatal shooting of Lipolelo took a new turn after a letter subpoenaing Prime Minister Thomas Thabane about usage of his mobile phone to communicate with assassinators was attached as evidence before court in a court bid by police commissioner to stop his removal from office.
Thabane had this week tried, unsuccessfully, to remove police commissioner after he apparently touched a nerve by asking him to reveal whom his mobile phone was communicating with during Lipolelo’s murder.
Thabane slapped Molibeli with a 60 days suspension after being interdicted by High Court from imposing a forced leave on the latter, but the case ended in an out of court settlement. Molibeli told the Centre he sees Thabane’s actions as an attempt to frustrate police investigations into his estranged wife’s assassination.
Lipolelo was killed at the age 58 on June 14, 2017, at Ha ‘Masana, about 35 kilometres south of Maseru City.
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.
A letter calling on Maesiah to report herself to the police partly reads; “you are kindly requested to report yourself before office of Deputy Commissioner of Police Criminal Investigations Division (CID) at police headquarters on Friday the 10th January 2020 at 11:00 hours in order to cast a light on some of the issues that arise in the case”.
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said Maesiah did not honour the Deputy police Commissioner’s request.
Mopeli without giving the exact number of times the first lady has been called in for questioning said this is not the first time, adding that she showed up the previous times.
Asked what consequences she may bear for failure to report to the police, Mopeli told the centre that they will explore alternative means to get her to cooperate.
“We will find means by which to get her side of the story because the information may help in the progression of this case,” stated Mopeli.
On the contrary, speaking at length about her refusal in an exclusive interview with the Centre Maesiah narrates that the police letter summoning her was received at her office (Office of the First Lady) at about 10: 45 am in the morning for her to report herself 15 minutes later or at 11:00 am.
She says she had not gone to her office due to her ill-health and when the letter arrived at the Office of the First Lady, her secretary immediately rushed to the State House to deliver the letter after a brief telephonic conversation about the police letter.
Maesiah, however, says she found the police not respectful of her being as a person to have afforded such little time to report to their offices.
She fumed “…they called me as though I am a little child playing house…” she further adds “it is as though I do not have my own personal business to attend to but just waiting to be summoned to the police”.
She says under normal circumstances she would not refuse to be called to the police but said taking the tension between the Prime Minister and the Police she would not just agree.
“You too know the tension between Ntate Tom who is not only the Prime Minister but is also my husband,” she says.
Maesiah narrates that the first time when summoned to the police by investigators of assassination of Lipolelo before the ensuing tension between Prime Minister and police, she just contacted her undisclosed lawyer who advised her to report herself to the police.
She said she dutifully obliged and reported herself to the police.
But, now, while contemplating over Mokete’s letter summoning her to the police Maesiah was contacted by an officer responsible for the upkeep of the statehouse and told that an officer commanding the police officer stationed at state house as her guards wanted her audience.
She says the police officer then told her he had received orders from the police commissioner to withdraw immediately their presence at the statehouse and from guarding her as the First Lady.
“We just received a message that we must withdraw our presence from the Statehouse and from guarding you and return back to our past duties with immediate effect. Then I asked them to leave as instructed. And they left the premises,” she said.
But police Spokesperson tells the Centre he cannot deny or confirm that the police unit stationed at the statehouse has been withdrawn and redeployed elsewhere.
But Maesiah insists withdrawal of her bodyguards, allegedly happening concurrently with her receipt of the letter summoning her left her fearing for her life taking the tension between the police commissioner and the Prime Minister.
“Going back to the letter, the first question that came to mind thereafter was how do I go to meet police officers whose boss seems to be on a warpath against me?
“Thinking over the letter summoning me and the drastic recall of my bodyguards and the tension between the police commissioner and my husband I came to a conclusion that I would not be safe in if I went to the police.
“Apart from Ntate Thabane being a Prime Minister, remember he is my husband. And just like everyone else, I too know what Lesotho police do to extract incriminating statements from people in their custody. I asked myself if I should go to someone who is clearly fighting me and came to the conclusion that I would not go,” said Maesiah.
Maesiah said when she first reported herself to the police officers investigating the case, the tension that exists today between the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of police did not exist.
Asked whether an attempt to fire Molibeli that stirred the said tension between the police boss and Prime Minister was not a ploy she had orchestrated to use her husband’s power to scupper police investigations, Maesiah dismissed this as untrue.
She argues: “people who have their own aspirations want to see me go because those aspirations do not materialize and now they are peddling unfounded accusations against my person. I do not go to cabinet meeting or make decisions on how this country’s affairs should be run”.
She went onto argue that she is not a criminal and that amid fearing to go to the police she would not flee the country as she is being asked about things she has no knowledge about in reference to Lipolelo’s murder.
Maesiah further went on to argue the police are now handling Lipolelo’s murder in a manner that advances certain individuals political interests.
“It’s like police are advancing certain political interests. In fact, I knew even before the police could write a letter about my arrest that I was to be summoned to the police,” she claimed.
She further said her undisclosed lawyer went to meet with the Deputy Commissioner of Police over the letter summoning her.
She claimed the lawyer and Mokete ended agreeing due to her fear of reporting herself to the police they would meet her at a neutral location they had agreed on. But Maesiah says when the lawyer was on his way to the State House he was called by Mokete who informed him that they deal would not work anymore and she must report herself to the police as request in the letter.