PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo Alice Thabane, is the country’s official First Lady and should be immediately afforded all benefits she is entitled to including a Chauffer driven government vehicle and a bodyguard, the High Court has ruled.
The judgment is a major blow to the Prime Minister’s current young partner, Liabiloe Ramoholi, as it effectively recognises Lipolelo as the prime minister’s rightful wife and First Lady, at least for now pending the finalization of a divorce case Dr Thabane instituted against Lipolelo.
Liabiloe, whom the premier had customarily married, and has been exercising the duties and enjoying the benefits of being the First Spouse can no longer do that after the judgment by Justice Molefi Makara.
That role should now be afforded to Lipolelo after the judgment banned Liabiloe from “performing any functions and exercising any rights vested in the applicant (Lipolelo) as the First Spouse in terms of Act 10 of 2011.”
Justice Makara also ordered that Dr Thabane and Public Service Minister Motloheloa Phooko must stop making any payments to Liabiloe from the government’s coffers. The two must not pay any other monies or allowances to Liabiloe if such payments are legally due to be paid to the First Spouse, in this case Lipolelo.
The judge ordered that Lipolelo be given all the benefits due to her in terms of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Retirement and Spouses’ Benefits) Act, 2011 (Act No: 10 of 2011).
These include a “a chauffeur-driven government vehicle, a body guard and other benefits she Lipolelo is entitled to in terms of the same Act.
The court also directed that Dr Thabane pay school fees forthwith for a minor child him and Lipolelo adopted.
The judgment is a part-culmination of the battles between the prime Minister and Lipolelo.
Dr Thabane filed divorce papers against Lipolelo On July 27, 2012, on grounds of malicious desertion, among other things. The matter is still pending in the courts.
However, Lipolelo counter sued the Premier late last year and asked the courts to stop his Liabiloe, whom he had just married traditionally, to stop acting as the first Lady and enjoying any benefits associated with the office of First spouse. Lipolelo argued this was because she was still legally married to Dr Thabane and the benefits should accrue to her.
In terms of Section 4 of the Act No: 10 of 2011, the spouse of the prime minister shall be paid a personal allowance and official allowance; the official allowance shall be used for public interest purposes.
The Act further provides in Section 8 (2) that the spouse of the prime minister shall be entitled to, among other things, a chauffeur-driven government vehicle, free medical treatment and a bodyguard.
Lipolelo, represented by Advocate Zwelakhe Mda (King’s Council), had argued that all these benefits were due to her as she was still Dr Thabane’s official wife. She won her case this week, meaning Dr Thabane and Liabiloe would be in contempt of court if the latter receives any of the stated benefits in law.
It seems the Prime Minister would only be able to ensure that his young sweetheart, Liabiloe, regains her position only after the courts have made a final determination on his divorce application against Lipolelo.
The divorce case itself had opened a pandoras box with court papers filed by both sides alleging infidelity and family assaults.