…victory for defence counsel or DPP?
…as police’s fears become reality
July 26, 2022
The move by the Director for Public Prosecution (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane to withdraw murder charges pitted against the former first couple of Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane and his wife Maesaiah Thabane on account of failure to locate a key state witness, brought to live the police wildest fears, and became actualization of a phrase; ‘it was a long time coming’.
This proven by defence counsel led by Advocate Salemane Phafane KC and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika representatives of the former Premier and his wife respectively.
According to Phafane, it was only a matter of time before the case was withdrawn as the crown has always had no case for his clients to answer.
“The crown never had a case, they were playing for the gallery, they were playing for the media and the public, and they were playing a political battle. Thabane had to vacate the high office as Prime Minister because among others he was alleged to have killed his wife. Subsequently that had impact on his wife; look at the injustice they have suffered.
“They knew there was no case from the beginning but they wanted to drive their narrative which achieved its goal because here is the former Prime Minister who is sitting in the dock and not the State House, at least one would have imagined that their house was in order, but alas, they are not ready until now,” he said.
Phafane stated that the accused suffered an unimaginable torment and public criticism which impelled them to succumb to the public pressure, thus bowing out of their respective high positions.
“This is the matter that has attracted a lot of attention interest and public concern, local and international community because the person allegedly assassinated was the wife of the then Prime Minister of the Kingdom.
“The accused persons have carried a heavy yoke on their shoulders for being accused to have murdered Lipolelo Thabane,” Phafane said.
The former statesman was accused of ordering the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, who would have assumed the role of First Lady, on the eve of his second inauguration as Premier. Thabane’s current wife, ‘Maesaiah, who had then assumed the role, was charged with the same crime.
Earlier this year, police investigating the case had expressed their worry that Motinyane’s involvement would likely ensure that the case was thrown out of court.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, who was then the head of Criminal Investigations Division, told this publication then that initially, Motinyane stood firm in her objection towards charging ‘Maesaiah.
“We struggled to get that directive from the DPP to take ‘Maesaiah to court,” said Mokete who eventually forced Motinyane’s hand when he held a press conference on February 4, 2020 to announce that the only thing missing for them to charge Maesaiah with the heinous crime was Motinyane’s directive.
Motinyane has always avoided all attempts to have her comment on her involvement in the case, but has subsequently ordered for its withdrawal.
The DPP’s retain Senior Counsel Advocate Gareth Lappan who was roped in the matter earlier this year, told the court before Justice Molefi Makara today that they were unable to trace the critical witness in the matter thus asked for the charges to be withdrawn.
“My Lord we were unable to trace a particular important witness and having discussed this with the DPP, the Director has decided to withdraw the charges and accordingly that is the application that the charges be withdrawn,” Lappan said.
He said they have other witnesses to provide evidence in the matter but their testimony would not stand without the key witness they are unable to trace.
Meanwhile, Letsika who appeared for Maesaiah remembered how her bail application had been opposed bitterly and vehemently back in February 2020 and how much the matter birthed confusion as the family of the accused was also embroiled in the whole matter by the police.
“She was accused of all sorts of things, I have not seen such strange ways of dealing with a criminal matter. Throughout it has always been said and pinned against my client by the Commissioner of Police,” he said.
When handing down his judgment, Makara J stated that the court is propelled by the law as per the provision of section 278 (3) of the Criminal and Procedure Evidence Act to grant the application as the section dictates that the crown has powers to prosecute or withdraw the matter.
“We are now at the point where the crown has unequivocally stated that it is withdrawing charges on the basis that it has hitherto failed to secure a key witness to sustain its case.
“The court consequently comes to a conclusion…to have charges against you withdrawn and you are resultantly excused from featuring before this court,” he told the pair.