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Lawyer insists ’Maesaiah still in Lesotho

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MASERU-FUGITIVE First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane’s lawyer, Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, insists she is still in the country and they occasionally meet.
Advocate Setlojoane told Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi on Tuesday that ’Maesaiah can be found at her home in Makhoakhoeng and at the State House as is spelt out in her affidavit.
The First Lady is wanted by the police for questioning over the murder of Thabane’s second wife, Lipolelo. She failed to report to the police headquarters as had been requested by the police, and has not been seen in public since.

She was supposed to have gone to the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on January 14.
When she did not show up and the police’s efforts to find her drew blanks, and the Maseru magistrate’s court issued a warrant of arrest on the same day.
The police raided the State House, the Prime Minister’s official residence, in search of his wife but failed to find her. The police have now distributed posters across the country calling on the public to contact the nearest police station if they spot her.

Speculation is rife that she has skipped the country to Ficksburg in the Free State.
But Advocate Setlojoane told Justice Monaphathi on Monday that the First Lady, as her affidavit shows, is in Maseru and they occasionally meet in his office.
“They know where to find her as she indicated in her founding affidavit that she resides in Makhoakhoeng but is currently staying at the State House,” Advocate Setlojoane said.
“So there was no need for the police to go around the place with a warrant searching for her as if she was a criminal,” the lawyer said.
He said the First Lady has no problem reporting to the police provided she is accompanied by her lawyer.
Advocate Setlojoane said ’Maesaiah is afraid to go to the police alone because she suspects that she would be ill-treated in light of the hostile relations between the police boss, Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, and her husband.

The lawyer was responding to Justice Monaphathi’s question on whether the First Lady wanted to report to the police.
He explained that his client does not have a problem with reporting to the police but can only do so if the warrant of arrest is set aside.
He said he knew that “she does not have a problem as I meet with her occasionally at my office”.

Advocate Setlojoane explained that the only thing keeping the First Lady from coming to court or handing herself over to the police is the manner in which the warrant of arrest was issued.
“She could have been called for hearing on issues of the warrant because she does not understand how the officials of the Commissioner of Police had applied for the issuance of the warrant,” he said.
“My client received a letter ordering her to report to the police for questioning in relation to the murder of Lipolelo Thabane,” he said, adding: “Please note that the letter reached her at 12:30pm and she was expected to be at the police station at 11:00 hours.”
“When was she going to prepare?” he asked.

Advocate Setlojoane said besides being called for questioning, the Police Commissioner had earlier withdrawn the First Couple’s police security detail.
“This act brought fear to her as it is unusual for the commissioner to just remove security from them,” he said.
He emphasised that she is ready to be interrogated.

“She indicated that if she would be interrogated in the presence of her lawyer (then) she does not have a problem to report herself at the police,” he said.
’Maesaiah was previously summoned by the police in 2018 regarding the same case of Lipolelo Thabane’s murder.
Advocate Setlojoane said he is surprised that the contents of the warrant of arrest refer to ’Maesaiah as a suspect in the murder of Lipolelo.

“We now know that the First Lady is a suspect,” he said.
“At first it was as if she was just going to be asked a few questions to cast light on some of the issues pertaining to the assassination of Lipolelo Thabane,” he said.
Justice Monaphathi asked the lawyer what he expected the police to do when they did not find ’Maesaiah, if applying for the warrant of arrest was not an option.
Advocate Setlojoane said they knew that they could find her either at the State House or at her Makhoakhoeng home.
The case continues today.

Itumeleng Khoete

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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