Former first lady granted bail in Lesotho murder case

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Maesaiah Thabane
The Post Newspaper
Maesaiah Thabane is described as 'very dangerous' by police

Lesotho's former first lady - who has been charged with murdering her husband’s estranged wife - has been granted bail despite police objections that she might use it to escape.

The deputy police commissioner, Paseka Moketem, said Maesaiah Thabane had fled before and was likely to do so again.

He described her as very dangerous and said she had the resources to interfere with witnesses.

Mrs Thabane was arrested earlier this month after the appeal court revoked her bail. When police tried to question her earlier this year, she left for South Africa.

She denies ordering the killing of Lipolelo Thabane who was shot dead in the capital, Maseru, three years ago.

Her husband, the former prime minister, Thomas Thabane, also denies involvement.

Lesotho ex-PM 'paid hit-men to kill former wife'

Pumza Fihlani

BBC News, Johannesburg

Thomas Thabane and his wife Maesaiah
Thomas Thabane and Maesaiah Thabane appeared in public together shortly after his ex-wife's murder in 2017

In a damning court affidavit, the police in Lesotho say they have evidence that former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his current wife Maesaiah Thabane paid assassins to kill Mr Thabane’s estranged wife in 2017.

Lipolelo Thabane was shot dead on the eve of Mr Thabane’s swearing in as prime minister.

The police statement is one of the documents filed in the Maseru High Court which the police will be using to oppose Mrs Thabane’s bail application.

Mrs Thabane, who has been charged with murder, has been in custody since last week. Her lawyers will argue that she should be granted bail to care for her unwell husband.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Thabane – who has denied any involvement in the murder - was forced to step down last month amid the murder allegations.

He is yet to be charged, but in the latest papers police allege that he identified the home of his estranged wife to the hit-men.

The police also say the former prime minister and his wife agreed to pay the alleged killers a total of $180,000 (£142,000) – which was to be paid in instalments. A down-payment of $24,000 had already been paid, according to the affidavit. One of the hit-men will be testifying as key witness for the state.

According to the police, Mr and Mrs Thabane wanted his former wife, Lipolelo, dead, so that his current wife could assume the role of first lady.

Shortly before her death, Lipolelo Thabane won a court battle confirming that she was the rightful first lady – despite being in the middle of divorce proceedings - and deserved all the perks that came with the position.

Read more:

Lesotho ex-first lady arrested

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Maesaiah Thabane

Lesotho's former first lady has been arrested over the murder of the estranged wife of her husband, the recently resigned prime minister Thomas Thabane.

Maesaiah Thabane's bail was revoked last week.

Mr Thabane has also been named as a suspect in the killing of Lipolelo, who was shot dead three years ago, days before Mr Thabane was sworn in as prime minister.

The couple have denied involvement in the murder. The case has caused significant political upheaval in Lesotho.

Mr Thabane stepped down as prime minister last month, following sustained pressure from his own party.

Read more: The characters at the heart of Lesotho's murder drama

Lesotho's new prime minister sworn in

Lesotho's former Prime minister Thomas Thabane (L) hands power to the newly appointed Prime minister Moeketsi Majoro
Getty Images
Lesotho's former Prime minister Thomas Thabane (L) handed power to the newly appointed Prime minister Moeketsi Majoro

Lesotho's former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro has been sworn in as the new prime minister just a day after Thomas Thabane stepped down.

Mr Majoro took oath at the palace of King Letsie III on Wednesday morning.

His predecessor resigned following months of pressure after he was named as a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife. He denies any involvement.

Lesotho prime minister leaves office amid murder case

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Thomas Thabane gesturing as he speaks
Thomas Thabane has now formally resigned

The prime minister of Lesotho has formally resigned following a scandal in which he was accused of involvement in the killing of his estranged wife.

Thomas Thabane told a national television audience that although he had not completed his work, he was retiring from what he described as the great theatre of action.

He had for months refused to step down.

Mr Thabane and his wife, Lipolelo, were embroiled in a bitter divorce when she was shot dead outside her home.

His current wife, Maesaiah, has been charged with murdering Lipolelo.

The couple deny wrongdoing.

Read more:

What next for Lesotho?

Scandal-hit PM Thomas Thabane is set to resign

Pumza Fihlani

BBC News, Johannesburg

The current finance minister, Moeketsi Majoro, looks set to be Lesotho's next prime minister.

He has been appointed as the would-be leader of the new governing coalition by both the All Basotho Congress and its ally, the Democratic Congress.

The king of Lesotho is being formally notified and it is expected that Mr Majoro will be sworn in at the royal palace in the capital, Maseru, on Wednesday.

Parliament will then reconvene on Friday, when the new government is expected to be inaugurated.

Lesotho is last African nation to record Covid-19

Pumza Fihlani

BBC News

Lesotho soldiers enforcing the lockdown in Maseru
Getty Images
Lesotho was in lockdown during April

Lesotho has confirmed its first case of coronavirus - becoming the last country in Africa to record the virus.

The mountain kingdom is completely surrounded by South Africa, which has 11,350 cases of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.

The single case resulted from tests done on 81 travellers from South Africa and Saudi Arabia, the health ministry said in a statement.

For weeks there have been questions about how Lesotho had managed to stave off the disease in spite of the frequent movement of people between the two neighbours.

Hundreds of thousands of Basotho work in South Africa.

The border closed when both countries went into lockdown at the end of March - with only essential workers allowed to move back and forth.

A few weeks ago, Lesotho’s Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, in an interview with South Africa's EyeWitness News, pleaded with those wanting to be repatriated to remain in South Africa - fearing that some might come back with the virus.

This would place an enormous burden on the country’s already fragile health system, he said.

Lesotho does not have the necessary resources to test for Covid-19, so samples are being sent to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Some have said the this may lead to a delay not only in detecting cases and containing the spread of the virus but also in administering treatment.

"To date we have sent 597 specimens for testing at NICD, 295 are negative and 301 are still pending,” Lesotho's health ministry said.

End of the road for Lesotho's embattled PM

Pumza Fihlani

BBC News, Johannesburg

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane
Thomas Thabane denies involvement in the murder of his estranged wife

Lesotho's coalition government has collapsed, leaving Prime Minister Thomas Thabane without enough seats to continue governing, the parliament speaker has announced, adding that Mr Thabane had to step down by 22 May.

The 80-year-old leader has been under pressure to leave office for months after he and his current wife were accused of orchestrating the murder of his estranged wife, Dipolelo Thabane.

Dipolelo was shot several times outside her home in 2017, on the eve Mr Thabane’s inauguration.

Mr Thabane and his current wife Maesaiah have both denied any wrongdoing.

Many in Lesotho believe that Mr Thabane has spent the last few months trying to lobby those in power for immunity from prosecution.

But it doesn’t seem like that will be happening.

A spokesperson for Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Montoeli Masoetsa, has told the BBC that Mr Thabane will not be receiving any protection from the law.

“Our stance is that like all citizens, he must stand trial and clear his name there,” he said.

Mr Masoetsa said the prime minister and all his ministers were expected to leave their posts in the coming days - and a new prime minister would be sworn in as soon as possible.

“There is officially no government in Lesotho and that needs to be addressed so as to ensure stability. We are working on making sure that happens,” he said.

Dipolelo’s murder case is still before the courts.