Thomas Thabane, a Shakespearean drama in Africa

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Thomas Thabane, a Shakespearean drama in Africa

maria picasso i prick

The 82-year-old former prime minister of the small kingdom of Lesotho will stand trial for the murder of his second wife, Lipolelo, who sued him to gain first lady status despite the fact that they were separated

Thomas Thabane, a Shakespearean drama in Africa

Something smells rotten in Lesotho. Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, his former Prime Minister until May 2020, has been indicted for the murder of his second wife Lipolelo. On November 30, the politician heard the charges in the council chambers of the High Court in Maseru, the capital of this southern country, a small independent kingdom of two million people within the Republic of Africa from South. The hypothesis put forward by the prosecution is that he ordered the execution to allow Maesaiah, his third wife, to enjoy a legitimate status. The event looks like a Shakespearian drama, perhaps a free version of Hamlet. Love and politics sometimes lead to crime in 17th century Denmark and contemporary Africa.

The cell phone betrayed the 82-year-old leader. But no, we are not talking about the reason in legal terms, but about the phone. Police chief Holomo Molibeli revealed that Thabane’s number appeared in an exchange of calls at the scene, becoming powerful evidence for the prosecution. A rookie mistake in the context of a complete assassination. Because here the motive – the reason – refers to a question of power.

The marriage between Thomas and Lipolelo, 58, had broken up in 2012 and divorce proceedings were stalled when it all happened. For the ex-husband, victory in the 2017 elections ensured him control of the executive. Although separated from her, her ex-wife had taken legal action to be formally considered as the First Lady to the detriment of the new companion of her still husband. Conflict, a soap opera for Lesotho society, was served.

The citizens consumed the vicissitudes of the Thabane War with relish, until they shuddered at its abrupt resolution. On June 14, 2017, the victim was ambushed while returning home to the village of Ha-Masana, on the outskirts of the capital. Her body pulled from her appeared on a dirt road. Motsoahae Thomas Thabane immediately regretted this “senseless murder”, in his own words. Two days later, the alleged instigator assumed the post of Prime Minister he had obtained by winning the elections and two months later, suddenly, he married Maesaiah, 43, who thus became the third wife from.

The absence of clarification and the impunity of the culprits seemed the logical fate of the murder, one more. Lesotho’s murder rate is the sixth highest in the world, but the evidence was so overwhelming that the new third wife was eventually questioned by police forces. In January 2020, two years after Lipolelo’s crime, an arrest warrant was issued for her and she is currently out on bail.

Even so, it seemed that justice could not reach her husband, installed in power as Prime Minister. Its political trajectory parallels national history. A civil servant during the last colonial period, he occupied, among others, the posts of Secretary of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of the National Assembly or leader of his own party, the Convention Todos Basotho, with which he triumphed at the polls.

The surprising dismissal of the police chief who had investigated the murder did not stop the process or the appearance of a current of opinion favorable to the departure of Thomas Thabane from power. But in this adverse scenario, the outbreak of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 gave him respite because it allowed the establishment of the state of emergency in the country and, consequently, the adoption of repressive measures. against freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.

The return of the emigrants

The truce was short-lived for the then Prime Minister of Lesotho. The country, roughly the same size as Belgium, depends on subsistence farming, mining and remittances abroad. The ebb caused by the return of migrants who had lost their jobs threatened to collapse the health system. The social situation has been aggravated by the closure of extractive companies and the protests sparked by the construction of the Polihali dam, a project intended to supply water to its South African neighbors and which involves the expulsion of 8,000 indigenous people.

The tension has given wings to the faction within the ruling party which has demanded the resignation of the suspect in the murder of his second wife. On May 20, 2020, the government announced the “dignified, elegant and safe” retirement of Thabane and, after the formal accusation that occurred last November, it has just been announced that the trial will finally take place during this year 2022 .

The motive may be the key to the conviction of Motsoahae Thomas Thabane and his third wife. The phone, of course. Because, curiously, the witnesses of the crime have disappeared. Thato Sebolla, a friend of the victim, and two other people who were at the scene of the crime, left the country. Three other people who could also provide enlightening testimonies lost their lives in strange circumstances. Yes, it’s disturbing. The accused couple, in any case, deny having crossed Lesotho and its unsafe roads “killing people”.