’Maesaiah granted bail

’Maesaiah granted bail

MASERU – FIRST Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane was last night granted bail under what some lawyers have described as controversial circumstances.
A few hours earlier a forlorn-looking ’Maesaiah Thabane had appeared in the magistrates’ court charged with the murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, Lipolelo Thabane, in 2017.

She was also charged with the attempted murder of Thato Sibolla who was in the same car with Lipolelo Thabane when she was murdered Ha-Masana.
Clad in a dark pink seshoeshoe dress, ’Maesaiah made a wry smile as the magistrate read the charges. She looked calm and collected, as if unfazed by the serious charges she faced.

Occasionally, she would look straight into the gallery so packed that some people had to sit on the floor.
’Maesaiah did not look anything like the woman who had been on the police’s most wanted list and had been in hiding for three weeks.
She glowed in perfect make-up as if she had not spent the previous night in a dingy police holding cell. She was remanded in custody until February 18 and was told to apply for bail at the High Court.
What followed was dramatic.

After a four-hour lull, her impending bail application started filtering in. Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane filed the application at around 4pm and the police quickly filed a notice of motion to oppose.
From the High Court registry the matter landed on Assistant Registrar Advocate Tebello Mokhoema who allocates cases to judges.

A few minutes later Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase was presiding over the application in her chambers.
Justice Keketso Moahloli who was the judge on duty did not see the file nor was he informed about it, according to several sources.
The crown’s and the police’s lawyers are said to have pleaded with Justice Mahase to give them time, as is normal procedure, to prepare their case and file their answering affidavit but she would have none of it.

Instead she said ’Maesaiah had made a compelling argument that she had a doctor’s appointment in South Africa today and she had voluntarily handed herself over to the police.
This was despite the fact that the police and the crown arguing that she had proven to be a flight risk after fleeing on January 10 when she was asked to come in for further questioning.

Under normal circumstances the crown and the police should have been granted an opportunity to file written arguments opposing bail. This is especially so in murder cases where bail is usually granted under exceptional circumstances.

It’s a process that normally takes two to three days as the crown files its answering affidavit and the applicant files a replying affidavit before both sides submit their heads of argument for the judge to hear the case in an open court.

Justice Mahase heard ’Maesaiah’s case in her chambers without the crown filing its answering affidavit. In the end she granted ’Maesaiah a M1 000-bail with what some lawyers see as extremely gentle conditions.
Unlike other murder suspects who are asked to surrender their travel documents, ’Maesaiah gets to keep her passport.

The condition to report to the police once a month was the only variation Justice Majara made to what ’Maesaiah’s lawyer had requested. The lawyer was arguing that she should report to the police once every six months. The court did not demand surety like in the majority of murder cases.
Why the case ended with Justice Mahase instead of Justice Moahloli, who was on duty, depends on who you speak to at the Palace of Justice.

Advocate Mokhoema told thepost there was nothing contentious about the allocation. She said some time back the Chief Justice issued an instruction that if a bail application is opposed it should be taken straight to her.
“There is a similar directive on high profile cases,” Advocate Mokhoema said last night. But another assistant registrar said that “directive” is no longer being followed because it is at odds with the Administration of Justice Act.

“The ideal situation is that the judge on duty should hear all urgent applications filed during his shift,” said an assistant registrar who added that he is baffled by the way the case was handled.
“It cannot be correct that there is a special route for so-called high profile cases. Such a special treatment is at variance with the laws of justice which say we are all equal in the eyes of the law,” he said.

“Even the directive that every opposed case should be seen by the chief justice is odd and its application doesn’t seem to be consistent with the law.”
’Maesaiah’s friends and supporters were celebrating her freedom at the State House last night.
Cars hooters bellowed amid a cacophony of whistles that pierced the night.

The bail was rare sweet news in what has been a chaotic four weeks for the First Lady and those in her circle.
But as they jumped for joy some lawyers were huddled in a Maseru office as they combed through law books for a way to appeal the bail judgement.

thepost has it on good authority that the appeal might be filed either today or tomorrow but that depends on them finding the legal hook on which to hang their application.
One High Court insider described the judgement as an “aberration that should not be allowed to stand”.

Staff Reporter

 

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