African Mountain Kingdom’s First Lady Accused of Murdering Previous First Lady
The wife of the prime minister of Lesotho, a small enclaved country in Africa, has been accused of murdering her husband’s previous wife, according to multiple reports.
On Feb. 4, Maesaiah Thabane was charged with murder in the death of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane. The victim was fatally shot near her home in the kingdom’s capital, Maseru, in June 2017, at the age of 58, according to CNN, Reuters and BBC.
Two days later, the current first lady, 42, was released on bail and now awaits her trial, which has been scheduled for Feb. 18.
Lesotho is an kingdom surrounded entirely by South Africa. According to United Nations figures, it has a population of about 2 million.
According to several reports, Maesaiah denies the allegations. The prime minister has also been questioned but has not been charged and has yet to publicly address the charges.
PEOPLE was unable to reach Maesaiah’s legal team.
“She has been charged with murder alongside eight others who are in Lesotho and South Africa,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Mokete Paseka told Al Jazeera. The other suspects have not been publicly named.
Paseka added that the investigation had been “satisfactorily completed,” and that authorities allegedly have a “strong case” against Maesaiah.
Prior to her arrest, Maesaiah had allegedly fled Lesotho, disappearing on Jan. 10 into South Africa amid mounting suspicion surrounding Lipolelo’s killing. That same day, authorities issued a warrant for her arrest.
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Police now fear that she may run off once again.
“Had we been allowed to oppose the bail, we would have raised the possibility of her escape,” Paseka told Al Jazeera. “We are of the view that should she skip the country, it will be very easy for her .”
He added that should she leave again, they will reach out to South African authorities for help.
Maesaiah lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane, told Reuters that she would be traveling to South Africa ahead of her trial for a medical examination, assuring that she is “not a flight risk.”
“My client is entitled to bail. She is still innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law. She is not a flight risk,” Setlojoane told the outlet.
Daughter: ‘Justice Will Be Done’
Lipolelo was killed just two days before her estranged husband took office as prime minister. Because the couple was not formally divorced, a court ruled that she would be allowed to retain the benefits and perks that come with being in the position of the nation’s first lady once her estranged husband was in office.
Three months after her death, Maesaiah and Thomas wed in a Catholic ceremony.
“When the wedding had happened, my mother had died. It was a whirlwind. It was surreal — it was like I was watching a movie,” Nkoya Thabane Hlaele, the daughter of the prime minister and slain first lady, told CNN.
“If the allegations are true and she is convicted, then justice will be done,” she added. “It will never bring back our mother that was murdered, but justice will be done.”
It is unclear if the prime minister plans to step down from his position, though CNN reports mounting pressure.
Maesaiah has yet to enter a plea.
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