Of Maseru lawyers and witch doctors
Former Acting Chief Justice Tseliso monapathi once hit the proverbial nail on the head when he trenchantly admonished the ubiquitous lawyers in Lesotho whom he accused of running their “law firms” from the “boots of their second hand cars” imported from Asia. Such lawyers consequently dish out bush advice to their clients resulting in rampant vexatious litigation.
Scrutator weighed in and supported the prophetic words of this top judge then by noting that many of the vehicles from whose boots these “law firms” operate are in fact third, fourth and even fifth hand vehicles imported from Japan. The judge had been generous enough by using the word “second”. The quality of the legal advice issued from these boots is equally second, third, fourth or fifth hand.
Apart from these car boot lawyers, it seems there is now a growing number of “lawyers” running their mobile practices from under the trees.
The results are the same in that both the “car boot lawyers” and the “under the tree advocates” are all responsible for dishing out scrubland advice to their clients. Professionalism is the least of their concerns. I gather that there are now some lawyers resorting to consulting witch doctors ( inyangas) to win cases, according to information reaching my desk. more about that later.
The problem in our political arena, wherein we have more political parties than voters, and where everyone is vying to become the ruler, is well mirrored in our legal profession, in which we have more lawyers than potential clients.
As I have said before, throw a stone around maseru and it is likely to hit someone calling themselves an advocate and not a vegetable vendor.
In such circumstances, which lawyer can afford to turn away a client? Lesotho’s legal profession is a cutthroat business. As a result, even a client with the most bizarre and senseless instructions is accommodated as long as the moolah to fuel the second, third or fourth hand vehicle rolls in?
Any case is accepted and any litigation pursued, no matter how vexatious, clogging our justice delivery system. Perhaps a moratorium on training lawyers at our universities will be in order to ensure quality improvement among those already enrolled in this cutthroat sector.
When Justice monapathi made his prophetic words, the boy who was then leading the Law Society of Lesotho, Advocate monaheng Rasekoai, saw it fit to reprimand the judge for merely telling truth.
It is, of course, understandable that a leader of any organisation is expected to defend its members.
except that in this case, rasekoai was defending the indefensible and the entire article he wrote in defense of his colleagues was as feeble as rasekoai’s own baby face.
asekoai himself is a very promising, brilliant and articulate young lawyer. He certainly has a great future ahead of him in the profession. His own realisation that the law society, which includes large grey haired men and women with pot bellies, cannot itself be led by a boy or children and his subsequent decision to throw in the towel to concentrate on running his own credible law firm speaks volumes of his wit (not that he had elected himself in the first place).
The young rasekoai, whom I certainly would recommend to my younger sister for marriage, had nevertheless lost the plot in his sharp criticism of Judge monapathi.
Judge monapathi was right in his remarks. He remains right now and will be proven right in the future. The competence levels of our lawyers are exceedingly worrying. This is not to say there aren’t good lawyers around. oh no!!!.
We have many good experienced lawyers. But the shoddy, incom- petent ones by far outnumber the classy ones.
remember that even before Justice monapathi’s instructive remarks, former Appeal Court President Jan Steyn once scolded local lawyers over the poor quality of their filings at the courts with some appearing like they had been drafted by first week (not first year) law students.
any of you might already be wondering why I am bringing the subject of bush lawyers again when the country is only two weeks away from a snap general election and when the political arena is awash with stupidity deserving acerbic commentary.
I am bringing this subject again because I am frankly sick and tired of the poor quality of legal advice that is often dished out to unsuspecting Basotho by some of these bush lawyers resulting in the many vexatious lawsuits that sometimes end up clogging our courts.
This newspaper and myself are regular victims of this legal asininity and thoughtlessness.
A perfect example is a lawsuit once raised against this company by a newspaper subscriber who sued the Lesotho Times for delivering his newspaper late one Thursday morning. It was only during that one week when the newspaper was delivered late.
But the subscriber in question actually went as far as filing court papers alleging that because his copy of the Lesotho Times had been delivered late, he missed out on opportunities to see jobs and tenders advertisements and had, as a result, lost income.
The daft litigant argued that because he had missed out on that Thursday’s edition, his company had in turn missed out on an opportunity to see and win the advertised tenders. His children had also missed out the chance to see job advertisements and apply for employment. So they had lost the chance to be hired. For all this “prejudice” the silly litigant demanded the Lesotho Times pay him a whooping M100 000.
The best response would have been to tell this person to sod off. But as you will know, every court summon (no matter how vexatious), requires a response, lest a default judgment ensue.
I was not so much annoyed by the stupidity of the litigant but by the anthropological foolishness and lack of shame by the lawyer who spent time and energy drafting all the court papers that were served to us.
Because of the futile nature of this court bid, the Lesotho Times had no option but to ask our lawyers to first get a security of costs order as there was no way any judge (no matter how naïve) would grant such a crass application.
Such an order would ensure that this vexatious litigant provided the necessary security upfront to pay our costs in the event of his inevitable losing of the silly case.
At this stage, the litigant disappeared and abandoned his application before it could be heard. But not before wasting our time and resources.
The question is how can any serious lawyer out there advice a client to sue over a late delivery of a newspaper?
Does early arrival of a newspaper subscription guarantee that anyone will win a tender? How could any self-respecting lawyer stand before a judge and argue such a warped case?
As if this was not enough, there was the case of a man who sued after a picture of a group of soccer supporters, with him included, was published in this newspaper.
The man claimed he had lied to his wife that he was going to a funeral but ended up at the soccer match with his girlfriend.
By publishing the photograph, the man claimed, the Lesotho Times had exposed him to his wife who had threatened to divorce him.
So the man wanted us to pay him m500 000 for violating his privacy by publishing the picture. The fact that a lawyer could see it fit to write a letter of demand on behalf of this insane client made me almost lose respect for the legal profession in this country.
Any self-respecting lawyer would surely have, upon being approached by such a client, called the nearest ambulance and ensured that the client got confined to the nearest psychiatric unit.
But in a country in which clients are few and far between, this could not happen.
I have encountered many other similarly foolish lawsuits which I cannot all repeat here.
The question then is; why do our lawyers stoop so low by taking up such flimsy cases?
When I recently heard that some of our bush lawyers are now approaching witch doctors to win cases, I was not surprised. The only problem for them is that no spell can ever sway our venerable and competent judges.
Court cases are won on the basis of sound legal argument. There are two ingredients that make a good lawyer; access to a very well equipped library and a voracious appetite to read.
Any lawyer aspiring to have a sound jurisprudential mind must have an appetite to read which, by far, must exceed his or her sexual appetite.
It’s only through thorough research and discovery of legal principles of the law, as set out in precedents and other sources of law, and applying these principles correctly to the relevant facts that cases are won. There is no room for inyangas in law.
one area in which virtually all Basotho lawyers appear challenged is in the field of the law of defamation.
I have often endeavored to help our lawyers understand this field of law by highlighting to them cases which they must study to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge to understand defamation.
I do this in the same way that I often share my wisdom with dunderhead politicians to achieve better governance and prosperity in this country.
With our lawyers, however, I seem to be fighting a losing battle.
They neither listen nor read the recommended sources.
Sometimes I try to summarise landmark judgments mostly passed in the South African courts, which are all relevant in Lesotho, as the two countries share the same legal pedestal, but to no avail.
At one stage, the situation was very bad. I would walk into my office every Monday to find my in-tray filled with letters of demand from many bush lawyers representing clients alleging that I had defamed them.
That was until many Basotho realised that Scrutator’s wisdom is given by the outer gods and is never to be challenged.
Whoever follows what I say is bound to prosper in their respective areas of endeavor.
Indeed those who have listened to what I say have become better judges, lawyers, politicians, doctors, teachers, accountants etc.
The exception is the inyangas as I am ignorant about their field of endeavor and cannot guide them.
one man who seems prepared to ignore Scrutator at his own peril is the now garrulous Joshua Setipa, the former LNDC boss.
I found a vexatious letter demanding that I must pay him a staggering m3 million for “defaming” him over a previous column in which I admonished him for lying about his previous affiliation to the Democratic Congress.
Ishall not seek to summarise that column again as most of you would have read it (I received 4470 responses on my gmail account).
my question to Setipa is what do you expect the mighty Scrutator to do with lying politicians?
After a politician has been exposed for lying, do you expect me to pat him/her on the back and say well done?
After you repeatedly denied that you never had any association with the DC, until the party comes to our offices and produces your 10 year membership subscription, did you expect me to congratulate you for lying and assure you my vote on 28 February.
Instead of getting annoyed by my threat to investigate whether you were indeed an advisor to the WTO boss, or the proverbial slave sent to carry the boss over his shoulders up and down the steps of the humungus WTO Geneva headquarters, you should have quickly dispatched the number or email of whichever WTO boss you served and challenged me to prove the facts by phoning him directly to confirm that you were indeed the advisor.
Instead of getting annoyed by my threat to check if you are a holder of real qualifications or Pallo Jordan qualifications, you should have challenged me to establish the facts by sending me the phone numbers of the registrars of all the universities you enrolled at. I will be chewing my hat by now.
For the uninitiated among us, Jordan is yet another ANC scumbag, who for 40 years lied that he holds a doctorate from the venerable London School of economics.
remember bro Josh, if you tell a lie, you open yourself to scrutiny over everything else you have said or done before.
After Jordan’s lies were exposed, it became fashionable for the media
For your information Bra Josh, I was digging my grandmother’s grave last week and discovered a treasure trove of diamonds believed to have been stashed underground in my ancestral yard in Qacha by rampant colonialists during moshoeshoe’s wars with them in the 19th century.
The good news is that I am on my way to Antwerp and if these are legitimate diamonds I am advised I might rack in an unbelievable m200 million.
So the m3 million that you want me to pay you will become my pocket change. The bad news, however, is that I will not pay you the m3 million you want. In fact I won’t pay you a single penny. Sorry Josh if you are running out of campaign money.
my interest is in ensuring that this country gets a new breed of honest politicians who will move this country forward. If we let you get away with lying now, what will happen when you assume the levers of power.
Your mistake was probably because you are still a novice in politics. So I will forgive you provided you never tell a lie again. I still believe in you.
even though you have no chance in hell of winning the maseru constituency, regardless of the number of billboards you plaster around, you may still end up in Parliament and in cabinet via the Pr route.
This is not because I don’t want you to win a constituency. You know better that maseru is a Cyclone Tom powerbase. Just witness the sheer numbers at his rallies in the cities.
Despite your tragic mistake, you are a vast improvement from the trash that populates our politics.
It will be good if you end up in Parliament and even in cabinet in a possible DC/LCD coalition. But if you lie again, expect no mercy from Scrutator.
These words are not meant to dissuade you from pursuing your lawsuit.
Iam relishing the chance to take you on in court. After I dress you down there, you will learn to have a thick skin. That will make you a better politician. remember the judges will not rule in my favour because they will drool at seeing my shiny pink lingerie via my see through lace dress as I walk into court (that is if they are male) or because of any need to promote any sisterhood spirit (if they are female).
They will rule in my favour because Scrutator must be protected at all costs for the good of this Kingdom.
For the duration of the court case, I will also christen you “our very own TB Joshua”. Remember your namesake; that money grabbing charlatan from Lagos, who has abused God’s name to rack in millions from unsuspecting people through fake miracles.
When TB killed dozens on his compound due to poor architectural work on his dormitory, he blamed it all on a UFO (unidentified flying object). Far worse than lying about one’s political past. But abominable nevertheless.
After you have lost your case, I may resort to calling you mr Setipa, to reduce your agony. At least you are not using a bush lawyer. But a respectable one with an ego the size of the eiffel Tower nevertheless. I look forward to meeting both of you in the palace of justice.