Justice Nomngcongo mourned

Justice Nomngcongo mourned

MASERU – HIGH Court judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, who died last Thursday at the age of 68, will be remembered as a brave yet controversial judge.
He had been ill for quite some time.
Justice Nomngcongo shot to international fame in December 2003 when he ruled that a powerful French power company, Schneider Electric, should stand trial in Lesotho for bribery involving M16 million.

Schneider Electric was denying that it had been properly brought before the Lesotho court in a case that had attracted the attention of the international community in which a poor tiny Kingdom of Lesotho pushed for the prosecution of an international company.
The company had been charged with 17 counts of bribery linked to the construction of the multi-billion maloti Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
Justice Nomngcongo ruled that the company which then operated in 130 countries worldwide was spinning in France “an intricate web of corporate manipulation with its yarn reaching over to the Kingdom of Lesotho”.
He found that the company’s fiddle was “meant to mislead and calculated to deceive us in Lesotho”.

Ntate Thami, as many called him, will be missed in the legal profession but in the media, he will be remembered as the only Lesotho judge who sued a newspaper editor and won a default judgment.
He sued the Catholic-owned Moeletsi oa Basotho for M1.5 million after it ran a piece criticising the judge. He won the default judgment but it was later rescinded after Advocate Haaee Phoofolo applied for the recusal of Justice Lebohang Molete.

Others will however say he delayed delivering judgments, a matter that often incensed litigants.
He will also be remembered as the judge who called for the government to “sanitise the gutter social media”, which was seen as a call to control the media.
Justice Nomngcongo was delivering a judgment in a case in which former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, ’Maesaiah Thabane, had applied for bail.
’Maesaiah stands accused of the murder of Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
Saying he would not be swayed by public opinion on the case, Justice Nomngcongo said social media was contemptuous of him and he called the posts on social media “rats in the gutter”.
He called on the government to sanitise them.

People on the social media platforms had criticised the manner in which the judge had handled the bail application, some even suggesting that he had received a bribe from the Thabane family.
Justice Nomngcongo had said he had “no regard for the gutter social media which has no interest in the truth and justice which the petitioner has come here to seek”.
“Theirs is just to paddle salacious matters,” he said.
“Like sewer rats, I think those rats in the gutter that paddle this misinformation must be sanitised. I am making a call to those responsible. You must sanitise the gutter social media.”

Justice Nomngcongo was the firstborn son of the late Sebangole and ’Malehlohonolo Nomngcongo, from Mokanametsong in the Quthing district.
He was born on March 15, 1953.
He brilliance manifested itself early in his life, considering that at his Villa Maria school he did not sit for the Standard Five exams but was pushed on to Standard Six where he obtained first class.

A fierce debater by nature, he had to be transferred from St Theresa Seminary in Roma because of his clashes with the church and was taken to Eagle’s Peak in Qacha’s Nek where he passed with a first class.
In 1971 he enrolled with the then University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (now the National University of Lesotho) for a law programme.
From 1975 to 1976 he furthered his studies in Edinburgh, Scotland, and came back to Lesotho in 1977 to complete his LLB at the NUL.
He held several legal positions in various offices but most people will remember him as a no-nonsense magistrate and later a High Court judge.
He is survived by his wife, four sons, three brothers, a sister and four grandchildren.

Caswell Tlali

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