Witness in Thabane murder case pleads for protection

Lipolelo Thabane
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Lesotho’s First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane, is expected back in court next week. Thabane faces murder and attempted murder charges following the assassination of her predecessor and her husband’s estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane in 2017.

In the file video below, the news of Lipolelo Thabane’s murder made public: 

Thato Sibolla, a close friend to the family, was wounded in the shooting.

Sibolla is now a key witness in the case, but she’s in hiding in South Africa. She says she fears there’ll be another attempt on her life.

Sibolla is now pleading with the SADC region and South Africa to apply pressure on Lesotho’s government to ensure here safety as the trial unfolds. She’s been in hiding without any assistance from a witness protection programme.

The story of the estranged relationship between Lesotho’s Prime Minsiter, Tom Thabane, and his wife Lipolelo was common knowledge. The Prime Minister had been in a public relationship with Maesaiah for several years. He had declared his intention to marry her.

Close family friends and high-ranking members of the ruling party ABC tried to mediate a process to ensure that the transition of the First Lady’s office was smooth. Thato Sibolla was one of those people.

She says she had not expected the matter would end in tragedy.

“We were trying to make peace between Mme Lipolelo Thabane and the current First Lady so that there’s a smooth transition of divorce and that the current First Lady becomes First Lady without any problems. We had gone to Ladybrandt to meet the mediator from Maesaiah Thabane then when we came back through Maseru border we went to Mme Lipolelo’s home. When we were to reach her home, we were in a storm of bullets.”

Lipolelo Thabane was killed immediately and Sibolla sustained two gunshot wounds on her right side. She never expected her relationship with the Thabane family would have landed her in a position where she almost lost her life in such a manner.

Sibolla says the relation dates back to the founding days of the ruling ABC.

“I’m one of the founding members of ABC and I convinced my family, my friends to join the ABC at the time. With the relationship it started in the early ’90s, first, my friend was Nkoya Thabane, the Prime Minister’s daughter. Then it went to the father first even before the late Mme Lipolelo. And then the friendship went to Mme Lipolelo. So I can say that I was a family friend with the Thabanes and I had a very close relationship with the Prime Minister.”

Sibolla, who’s in hiding in South Africa, says her relationship with Prime Minister Tom Thabane broke down when he and his wife Lipolelo separated.

“Ever since the Prime Minister got in a public relationship with the current First Lady, we’ve never had such talks. He became sort of a stranger to me. I could no longer access him. This is why the day we were shot we had gone to Ladybrandt to speak to the mediator of their side; it shows that I no longer had the relationship with access to the Prime Minister.”

Sibolla is also disappointed that the prime suspect in this murder case was granted bail. She says Maesaiah’s release doesn’t give her the confidence that the matter will be tried fairly.

The case has significantly impacted the internal politics of the ruling party. After it emerged that Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s cellphone was linked to the murder, ABC leaders applied pressure on him to step down. He’s agreed to resign.

In the video below, SABC Foreign Editor Sophie Mokoena sheds more light on Tom Thabane’s decision to step down as Lesotho’s Prime Minister: 

Maesaiah Thabane is expected to return to court next week.

In the video below, Maesaiah Thabane appears in court on charges of murder and attempted murder: