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LESOTHO MURDER TRIAL

Lesotho PM no-show for court hearing over wife's murder

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane sits with his wife Maesaiah at his inauguration in Maseru on 16 June 2017.
Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane sits with his wife Maesaiah at his inauguration in Maseru on 16 June 2017. Photo: Samson Motikoe/AFP
2 min

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Friday failed to turn up for a court hearing where he was expected to be charged with murdering his estranged wife. Thabane has left the country for South Africa to have a medical checkup, according to one of his aides.

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“We are going to ascertain as to where he is and the reasons why he failed to show up and we shall take it up from there,” Deputy Police Commissioner Palesa Mokete told journalists outside the courtroom in the capital Maseru.

The prime minister is accused of having being involved in the murder of his 58-year-old wife Lilopelo Thabane who was gunned down just days before the prime minister took his oath of office. The two were entangled in a bitter divorce.

The 80-year-old prime minister went for a medical check-up, according to Thabo Thakalekoala, his personal secretary who spoke to the AFP news agency. Thakalekoala said Thabane had gone to South Africa for a “routine” appointment rather than attend his court hearing.

New wife accused as murder co-conspirator

Thabane married his current wife Maesaiah Thabane two months after Lipolelo’s murder and the police have charged Maesaiah as a co-conspirator.

“We cannot say at this stage that’s he’s contemptuous,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Mokete when asked whether Lesotho’s prime minister was in contempt of court for his no-show.

South Africa and Lesotho do have an extradition treaty ratified in November 2001 covering crimes with a sentence of more than one year in prison.

Lesotho police claim they have strong evidence against the premier, including communication data from the day of the murder.

Thabane to resign his post as PM this year

Thabane had described his wife’s murder as a “senseless killing” in his inaugural speech. His new wife Maesaiah had already assumed the status of his wife and attended his estranged wife’s funeral.

The prime minister’s current mandate was due to come to an end in 2022. However, he announced on Thursday that he would leave office by the end of July due to old age.

Thabane previously sought refuge in South Africa when soldiers attacked police posts and surrounded his residence during an army coup in August 2014. He spent years abroad, returning in 2017 when he successfully ran for re-election.

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