Lesotho’s former Prime Minister (PM), Thomas Thabane, and his wife paid assassins a down payment of $24,000 to kill his estranged wife Lipolelo three years ago, according to a police affidavit seen on Wednesday.
The details were the latest twist in a scandal that has rocked the Southern African state and prompted Thabane to resign last month under pressure over accusations he hampered the investigation.
The former Lesotho PM, Thabane and his then-wife, Lipolelo Thabane, 58, were in the middle of a bitter divorce when she was shot and killed outside her home two days before her husband’s 2017 inauguration.
Thabane has not yet been charged, but the police said he was involved in the plot to kill Lipolelo using hired killers and his wife Maesaiah is in custody accused of murder.
In an affidavit filed on Tuesday but seen by AFP on Wednesday, Lesotho’s Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, said the former PM, Thabane, and his wife, Maesaiah “wanted the deceased dead so that (Maesaiah) …could assume the position of First Lady”.
“Thabane physically pointed out the residence of the deceased to his co-accused,” Mokete said. Police have said they found Thabane’s mobile number in communications records from the crime scene. Thabane has denied involvement in the murder. He married Maesaiah two months after the death of Lipolelo.
The police commissioner said the couple had promised to pay the killers the equivalent of $179,485, which was to be paid in instalments.
“They would be remunerated in cash… and through employment opportunities, should they carry out the murder of the deceased before (Thabane’s) inauguration as prime minister,” Mokete said.
Initial payments totalling 400,000 maloti ($23,931) were made after Lipolelo’s assassination on 14 June 2017, police said. A first attempt to kill Lipolelo failed on 12 June 2017, police said.
One of the accused killers has since turned state witness. Maesaiah, 43, was charged with murder in February and spent half a night in jail before a High Court freed her on a 1,000 maloti ($57) bail.
She returned to custody last week after a court revoked bail. She applied for fresh bail on Thursday and a hearing is scheduled for 16 June.
In the application, she sought release to allow her to take care of her “critically ill” husband who has “been diagnosed with an advanced prostate cancer” for which he underwent an operation in South Africa on 29 May 2020. Police opposed the bail application.