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‘He was a beacon of hope’: Maqakachane

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…judicial giant remembered

Mohloai Mpesi

The President of Judicial Service Commission, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane lauded the late High Court Judge, Justice Thamsanqa Nomncongo who passed on last week, as a beacon of hope.

Maqakachane said this in a memorial service held yesterday that the late former Resident Magistrate was a ‘beacon of hope’ in the magistracy and incredible workaholic who organised and commanded his judicial and administrative functions in a manner which can only be described as a marvel to his colleagues then, the legal practitioners and the consumers of judicial service.

“The administration of justice was indeed in good hands. It was befitting that he was appointed as Judge of the High Court,” Maqakachane said.

Justice Nomncongo who is the first born of the late Sebangole and ‘Malehlohonolo Nomncongo died last Thursday due to undisclosed causes. He was born at Mokanametsong in Quthing district on March 15, 1953. Went to Villa Maria Primary School where he did not attend standard five (5) but was promoted to standard six where he attained first class.

In 1966 he went to St. Theresa Minor Seminary Roma but because of his conflicts with the management of the school he went to Eagle’s Peak in Qacha’s Neck where he passed his form five (5) with first class.

He attended the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) in 1971 where he studied Law. He furthered his studies in 1975 to 76 at Edinburg Scotland, he returned home to finish his studies of Bachelor of Law in 1977.

Nomncongo started his work in 1977 in the Law Office, Registry. He worked with Masoabi and Associates as a Lawyer. In 1979 he was appointed as a Magistrate at the Ministry of Justice where he worked in different districts. In 2002 he was chosen to be a judge at the High Court of Lesotho.

Maqakachane shared the emotional history of Nomncongo stating that the hostile behaviour displayed by the judges in the judiciary has contributed immensely to a deterioration of Nomncongo’s life, thus leading to his untimely demise as he was a ‘principled, morally upright and hardworking judge.

“Ntate Thami (as he was affectionately known) perfectly fitted the description of the proverbial judge: a minefield of legal knowledge, you would swear he knew the statute that was passed in the same morning; preparedness and knowing the contents of pleadings before him more than the legal practitioner who drafted them; rarely inquisitive during the hearing but when he chose to ask a question, in many cases than not, that was a point on which the case rested; stern and quickly reprimanding if he did not get an appropriate response from counsel (normally wrapped in mumbling rumbling that would require one to be particularly attentive to hear and understand what was being said. What made matter worse is that Ntate Thami would rarely look at you when dishing out these reprimands,” he said adding that Nomncongo was living two lives.

“We hope you, the Honourable Chief Justice, are reigning in over your judges and preventing these embarrassments which are inimical to judicial office. As a matter of fact and law, there is no place in the judiciary for such kind of judges. They should be impeached and removed from the office of a judge.

“Justice Nomncongo laboured and writhed under the great stress of this toxic ecosystem in the High Court until he could not bear it any more. There was a clear discernable downscaling of efforts in his judicial work; backlog of cases mounted high and became unmanageable; and he became unfortunate victim at the receiving end of work-related toxicity. These and other factors, I must guess, cascaded and snowballed to the point accelerating the declining status of his health which was deleteriously affected thereby. Justice Nomncongo then found solace, not in the daily work of his profession, but elsewhere. We got reports that our beloved Judge is not at work; he is sick; he has been excused from work; he is allowed time to deal with the pending judgments; or suchlike explanations. Life slowly ebbed out of a judicial giant.

“Concomitant with the politics, systemic problems and structural issues which are now the common feature of our judiciary at large, is the undeniable fact of the High Court as an institution being a toxic and dangerous environment and ecosystem not fit and conducive for habitation by principled, morally upright and hardworking judges. It is an undeniable fact, Honourable Chief Justice, admitted by two Chief Justices preceding yourself, that judges of the High Court, as they put it, “do not listen to the Chief Justice nor do they take and carry his/her administrative orders and instructions”.

Justice Nomncongo did not disappoint, or I should say, he took up the High Court challenges with the energy, resolve and commitment he was well known of and prepared for as a Magistrate. His astute and discerning judicial mind enabled him to identify dispositive issues to the case and would follow these up with questions and decide the case thereon. He was not a kind of a judge who would follow all the “chaff” in the pleadings and waste time in the process. He knew and could identify the “grain” and separate it from the “chaff”. His judgments were consequently short and to the point.  There are few judges in the High Court (and we all know there are few judges in the High Court) endowed with these qualities.

“If merit and capacity were the criteria for judicial appointments and selection to the High Court and to the Court of Appeal including in the Subordinate courts, many of those who man our benches today would best be serving in the taxi industry and not in the high offices of our judiciary. It is for the same reason that as the Law Society we welcome and congratulate the Judicial Service Commission (under the leadership of Chief Justice Sakoane), to have introduced open and transparent recruitment and appointment processes, to sieve out undeserving elements from the system.

All the same, we thank the Nomncongo Family for sparing one of the brightest legal luminaries in this Land, to serve this Kingdom both in the magistracy and the upper echelons of the judiciary (the High Court),” he said.

He met his untimely demise on September 2, 2021 at Maseru Private Hospital and will be buried today. He is survived by a wife, four sons, three brothers, one sister and four grandchildren.

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