A call to protect witnesses as Lesotho PM fails to appear in wife’s murder case
Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, due to faces charges Friday in connection with the murder of his former wife, has fled the country for South Africa, according to a press statement.
Reporters with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said both Thabane’s attorney and the police were surprised by the move, which Thabane – who has again announced he will resign – denies is an attempt to evade authorities.
Deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete says there is no warrant for Thabane’s arrest until police determine the reason for his failure to appear in court. He faces charges of murder, attempted murder, and malicious damage to property, according to Eyewitness News reporter Nthakoana Ngatane.
Lesotho first lady Maesiah Thabane, right, was arrested earlier this month in the case. It began in 2017 when Lipolelo Thabane, the former wife of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, was shot to death in her driveway in Ha Masana on the eve of Thabane’s inauguration. Lipolelo and Tom Thabane had been separated for years and were going through a difficult and contentious divorce.
Investigators said they had evidence the prime minister’s cell phone was used at the murder scene, and Thabane himself was called in for questioning at that time. In recent weeks he sought to have Lesotho police commissioner Holomo Molibeli removed from his position, as well as attempting to appoint a judge some say would compromise the possibility of a fair trial.
Deprose Muchena, the regional director for Amnesty International, warned Friday that steps must be taken to protect witnesses in the Thabane murder case.
“With such powerful suspects facing murder and attempted murder charges – and a long history of impunity in the country – it is imperative that Lesotho’s authorities ensure that those people whose testimony is central to the case, are kept safe from harm,” Muchena said.
“Already one of the individuals considered a key witness has died in mysterious circumstances, and others have fled the country after receiving death threats. The authorities have failed to provide adequate protection to them, despite police knowing that their lives are in danger.”
Image: All Basotho Convention file