The murder trial of the wife of Lesotho’s prime minister, accused of murdering his previous wife, is set to start next month, a court official said on Tuesday.
Maesaiah Thabane was arrested and charged earlier this month for the murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife Lipolelo, who was shot dead near her home in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, on June 14, 2017.
Maesaiah Thabane, who denies the charges and is on bail, appeared in the court briefly on Tuesday.
The magistrate court set March 17 as the date for the start of the trial, a spokeswoman for the court, Mampota Phakoe, said.
Lesotho police claim Maesaiah Thabane hired assassins to kill Lipolelo and was not actually present at the shooting herself.
Thomas Thabane took office two days after the killing, then married Maesaiah two months later. Lipolelo had reportedly refused to grant her husband divorce after he started a relationship with Maesaiah.
The case has stunned citizens of Lesotho, an independent kingdom of two million people lying in the middle of a South African mountain range.
Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli told Al Jazeera the prime minister ordered he be sacked for pursuing the investigation. A court later ruled that his job be protected.
“We were facing some difficulties in that people were not ready to talk or give us information or evidence, but of late people are coming in droves to give us intelligence,” Molibeli said.
Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Maseru, said a woman who was travelling with the victim and was wounded in the attack has fled the country, fearing for her safety.
“It’s a very complex case for people in Lesotho trying to understand how their first lady could possibly be involved in such a controversial scandal, and ultimately one that could see the prime minister, Thomas Thabane, charged as he’s also been implicated in this murder,” said Miller.
But Thabane’s daughter, Mabatsoeneng Hlaethe, defended the prime minister.
“He is not the kind of guy to plot a killing, I still stand to be corrected. But I have different convictions as far as his new wife is concerned,” she told Al Jazeera.