Lesotho’s murder mystery, Prime Minister Tom Thabane and his estranged wife

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Lesotho’s prime minister and his wife are caught up in a murder investigation involving allegations so sinister that they have the makings of a crime novel. Pumza Fihlani tries to unpack the mystery from the capital of the southern African nation, Maseru.

People are going about their business in the city, vegetable vendors line the streets, taxis whizz pass each rushing to the next passenger.

On the surface everything is in order but newspaper billboards plastered on shop windows and tied to lamp posts give the first indication that something is deeply wrong in Lesotho.

One headline reads in bold type: “Police Hunt First Lady.” Another says: “Embattled PM agrees to quit.”

The country’s first couple – Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his current wife Maesaiah Thabane – are wanted for questioning in connection with the 2017 murder of Mr Thabane’s then estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

The 58-year-old, who had been living apart from her husband since 2012, was killed just two days before Mr Thabane was sworn in as prime minister.

One evening while returning home, she was ambushed, shot several times at close range and died on the side of a dirt road. The murder shocked the nation. At the time, Mr Thabane described it as a “senseless killing”.

At the time of her death, the attack was blamed on unknown armed men, but recent court papers filed by the country’s police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, have raised further questions.

Among the court papers, seen by AFP news agency, was a copy of a letter, dated 23 December 2019, that the police chief wrote to the 80-year-old prime minister saying: “The investigations reveal that there was a telephonic communication at the scene of the crime in question… with another cell phone. The cell phone number belongs to you.”

First Lady missing

A warrant of arrest of was issued for 42-year-old Maesaiah Thabane on 10 January after she failed to present herself to the police for questioning.

She has not been seen publicly for two weeks and no-one seems to know where she is, well no-one willing to talk that is.

Mr Thabane, who is still in the country, has avoided any questions about his wife’s whereabouts.

The BBC contacted government officials for comment but they were unwilling to take questions on the matter. A spokesman for the prime minister’s party said “the matter has not been addressed”.

Death threats

The police commissioner, Mr Molibeli, told me the Thabane investigation was one of the most complex and dangerous cases he had worked on in his 32 years as a policeman.

“It hasn’t been easy, there have been many attempts for this investigation to not continue.

“I believe what we are doing is right, as long as my conscious is clear. The people of Lesotho want to know the truth and it is our job to investigate and get to that truth,” he said.

People have made threats on his life for pursuing the investigation, he adds, but he insists he is not scared.

BBC

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