The tough questions Thabane must answer

The tough questions Thabane must answer

MASERU-POLICE Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s troubles could have started after he asked Prime Minister Thomas Thababe to explain why his phone was used to talk to someone at the scene of the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
Commissioner Molibeli wrote to Thabane on December 23, 2019 asking pointed questions that insinuated that Thabane’s phone could have been instrumental in Lipolelo Thabane’s murder on July 14, 2017.

“Among other things, the investigations reveal that there was a telephonic communication at the scene of crime in question and that cell phone number 58852877 was involved in the communication with another cell phone, known to the police, at the time of assassination of Mrs Lipolelo Thabane,” said Commissioner Molibeli.
“The investigations further indicate that the aforementioned cell phone number belongs to you (Thabane).”

The commissioner asked Thabane to explain why his phone was used to call the person at the murder scene, who was being spoken to and the nature of the conversation.
Thabane did not respond to that letter but 12 days later he tried to put the commissioner on forced leave.
When that was foiled by an interim order the Prime Minister wrote another letter to the commissioner, this time asking him to give reasons why the Prime Minister could not advise the King to force him into retirement over several charges of misconduct.

Thabane gave Commissioner Molibeli seven days to respond but immediately suspended him for sixty days pending an investigation into his conduct.
Until then the commissioner’s explosive letter to Thabane had been a secret and could have remained so.
That however changed dramatically when the commissioner attached it to his urgent application to the High Court to block his suspension.
Thabane now finds himself facing a monumental public relations crisis that damages his reputations locally and internationally.

Coming at a time when he is buffeted by crises in his own party, the commissioner’s letter could upend his already fragile government.
The import of the commissioner’s letter is that Thabane’s phone was used to speak to someone at or near the murder scene. The commissioner says the police already know the number involved in the call with Thabane’s phone.

Whereas two weeks ago it was the commissioner privately demanding answers, it is now the public that wants the Prime Minister to explain.
With the news of the letter sprayed in international media, Thabane might also face questions from regional and international organisations. And as this crisis drags on, the demand for answers and accountability might grow louder.

SADC condemned Lipolelo Thabane’s murder and called for a thorough investigation.
That Commissioner Molibelli has also requested help from the South African police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has thrust the case into international spotlight.
The stakes are astronomically high for Thabane.

Already the police seem to have covered much ground on the investigation.
Much of the evidence seems to have been gathered from simple phone records, a source that police have heavily relied on in recent times.
To get the records the police had to be granted a court order to subpoena the mobile network company to release them.
The record shows who called who and from what area. That information is retrieved from the switch records that keep details of calls and their location. They however give a general location of the caller and not the specific spot.

Lesotho’s mobile telecommunications companies can pinpoint the specific location of a call but they have not activated that function on their networks. Also, they don’t record conversations because Lesotho’s laws do not allow them to do so.

They are however required to keep call records for ten years.
Using those records, the police are in a position to unravel the intricate web of what happened on the night Lipolelo Thabane was murdered. They know who called who at what time and from what area. They also know who else Thabane’s phone called on that night. All this leaves the Prime Minister with tough questions to answer.

Staff Reporter

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