When Matankiso Nthunya was appointed Chief Magistrate of Maseru in January 2013, the first thing she noticed was that Lesotho is a highly politicised society.
The divide between political parties is as clear as day and night.
As she discharged her duties, judgements in even mundane matters would be seen through the “great divide” that separates Lesotho’s political parties. Every decision that she made would be dissected through political lenses.
Sometimes she would be seen as pro-Establishment while sometimes she would be seen as backing opposition parties.
She says political pressure does not come from government officials; it comes from ordinary Basotho at the grassroots level.
It comes from the media, both radio and print; it comes from social media networks such as Facebook which allow Basotho to air their views, under the cover of anonymity.
The online comments are often crude. Sometimes they go beyond the limits of decency.
Nthunya says she has been “a target of everything”.
It is in this highly toxic political environment that she seeks to uphold her oath of office as a judicial officer.
“The society is highly politicised; when you make a ruling it is always interpreted in terms of political terms,” she says.
Yet, in spite of this toxic environment, Nthunya says duty demands that she remains true to her oath of office.
“I am very serious about the oath of office that I took when I came here, that I shall discharge my duties without fear, favour or prejudice,” she says.
She says what drives her on is a realisation that all individuals who appear before her in court “are entitled to all rights”.
While powerful forces outside the courts might want an individual locked up, Nthunya says that does not determine how she dispenses justice.
“If I feel you should not be locked up, I don’t care how everybody feels.”
She says judicial officers are not politicians and should therefore “not seek public opinion or approval”.
“We have to be guided by the Constitution, the law and our conscience,” she says.
She says because judicial officers are not politicians, “we are not in the business of soliciting approval from the public”.
“We stick to the law and the Constitution and that drives me and keeps me going,” she says.
“That gives me inspiration, my oath of office keeps me going. I am here to give justice to all without fear.
“None of the people who appear before me will go to prison merely because someone (outside) wants them to go down.”
But sometimes the emotional and psychological pressure can take its toll on her and her health. When it does so, she finds solace in religion, turning to her God for comfort.
A deeply devout Christian, Nthunya says when she cannot cope, she visits her spiritual mentors at her Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) “who always have something to say” in comforting her.
Nthunya says her biggest source of inspiration are two outstanding women, Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and South Africa’s Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
These two have proven that women can be good leaders and a force for positive change, she says.
Nthunya’s eyes light up when she speaks of Madonsela, a fearless woman who has stood up, particularly against President Jacob Zuma over allegations of corruption and abuse of public funds.
“If I was in a similar position I would do exactly the same. She does it well irrespective of the consequences. She does what she feels is right without any bounds, I like that attitude in a leader.”
She says the 1995 landmark case in South Africa, State versus Makwanyane, has had a tremendous impact on how she views public opinion in so far as it relates to her judgements.
In its judgement, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that capital punishment was “inconsistent with the commitment to human rights expressed in the Interim Constitution”.
The court invalidated a section of the Criminal Procedure & Evidence Act 51 of 1977 that provided for the use of the death penalty.
The ruling went against the prevailing sentiment among South Africans who still favoured the retention of the death penalty.
In his ruling Justice Chaskalson said although popular sentiment could have some bearing on the court’s considerations, “in itself, it is no substitute for the duty vested in the courts to interpret the Constitution and to uphold its provisions without fear or favour”.
Nthunya says the spirit of that judgement permeates her thinking as she seeks to deliver justice to Basotho without fear or favour.
“That gives me inspiration,” she says.
Nthunya says the Administration of the Judiciary Act 2011 which established the judiciary as a separate entity from the Ministry of Justice must be repealed because it does “not say much about subordinate courts”.
“The law was rushed through the system and left out a lot of things. The Act that gives us (magistrate’s courts) autonomy but does not say anything about us.”
She is also not happy with the current manner in which judicial appointments are made. She says only five people, including the Chief Justice, decide on who becomes a judge of the High Court.
Such a process is narrow and not representative enough, she says.
“We need to review the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) so that it is fully representative,” she says.
Nthunya says she is quite disturbed by the rising backlog of cases that are clogging Lesotho’s judicial system. She says cases involving homicide are on the rise, adding she does not know what society has become of late.
“The rate at which they come and compared with the rate at which we dispose them is quite terrible,” she says.
She says this is because there are far too few judges who have been appointed to the bench at the High Court to deal with such cases.
At present there are only 12 judges at the High Court, with two at the Commercial Court and two at the Land Court, leaving “four judges to do everything”.
The situation is no better at the Magistrates Courts around the country.
The number of judicial officers is also low. For example, in Maseru, there are 16 judicial officers who are tasked with handling all cases brought to the courts.
Nthunya says the other major problem is the usual postponement of cases because witnesses fail to turn up in court. By the time the cases are brought before the courts, in a number of cases, some of the witnesses would have died.
She says the police, lawyers, prosecutors and judges must all work in sync to speed up the delivery of justice.
“Yes, we have a backlog but it’s not of our making; all other sections have to do their part to get things moving,” she says.
Nthunya says she is proud to have played her part in delivering justice to Basotho over the past 25 years.
She says when she was appointed Senior Resident Magistrate at Tšifa-li-Mali Local and Central Court in Hlotse in Leribe in 2001, “to her horror and dismay, I found out that the buildings were so dilapidated and in terrible condition”.
She then began a conscious process to push for the building of a new complex in Hlotse. The result is a brand new Tšifa-li-Mali Court complex that now houses the Magistrate Court complex that is the pride of Hlotse.
“That’s my pride, that new court complex stands out, that was my dream,” she says.
Nthunya was born in Maseru in September 1967 to a father who was a civil servant. She was the only girl in a family of six children.
She says much of her combative nature stemmed from that background when she had to fight to get her way as a girl.
“I learnt from a very young age to fend for myself, to stand for what I believe and not to follow the majority,” she says.
She says while her father provided well for his family, they “never had all the luxuries of life but never really suffered” while growing up.
Her father, a former teacher, was passionate about education and to pay for all his children’s school fees, he would at the beginning of each year sell one of his cows to raise fees for his children.
- Nthunya began her education at the Methodist Primary School in 1973 but completed her primary school at the Maseru LEC Primary in 1979.
- She then moved to Morija Girls High School for her high school between 1980 and 1984.
- But because she had attained a third class pass at COSC, she had to enroll for a Diploma in Law which she later used as a stepping stone to enroll for a BA in Law at the National University of Lesotho (NUL)
- Studied for a BA Law between 1987 and 1990
- She joined the Ministry of Law as a Public Prosecutor in 1990
- Joined Ministry of Justice as a Magistrate in 1992; transferred to Qacha’s Nek in 1992
- In 1994 went back to the NUL for a LLB degree
- She joined the Ministry of Justice as a Magistrate in 1991;
- She was a Senior Resident Magistrate from 2001 to 2006
- Worked as Resident Magistrate in Butha-Buthe between 1997 and 2001
- I was transferred to Maseru as Chief Magistrate for the Central Region, having been appointed as Chief Magistrate for the Northern Region in January 2006 while in Leribe
- She holds a Masters Degree in Medical Law from University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
- She is currently the regional Vice-President of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA)
‘We lost direction in the ABC’
THE Mechechane MP, Nyapane Kaya, defected from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) to the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) contrary to the expectations that he would cross the floor with Nqosa Mahao’s new party, the Basotho Action Party (BAP). In fact, Mahao had earlier said Kaya was one of the MPs who would dump the ABC for his party. Kaya’s defection to the MEC took many by surprise. Our reporter, Margaret Katimbo, spoke to Kaya the day he joined the MEC. Below are excerpts from the interview.
What does it mean to you having to switch to the MEC?
It gives me special happiness and satisfaction, a special feeling of strength having changed parties. I joined the ABC from the very first day it was formed as a teacher, and I wasn’t even an active politician at the time. It was a vibrant party which filled people with a lot of hope. The problem, however, is that we abandoned the direction which we took with the people from the beginning after we felt cushioned.
I have to accept that the ABC has done a great deal of good things for Lesotho that I can point to but unfortunately there are times when people feel like they have reached a stage where they feel successful and the love for their nation is no longer there. I was aware that with my (ABC) party, there is no longer an interest to maintain the rhythm of working for the people. Having changed to the MEC, I feel that special kind of satisfaction because I trust that I will get the new strength to work for the people.
What attracted you to the MEC?
Well, in particular the MEC leader is one hard-working politician with vigour and a strong wish to produce results in this country. He makes and leaves a mark wherever he goes. Therefore, being close to him this much encourages me and gives me pleasure because I too am a results-oriented politician. I hope that we will work together with other politicians, not necessarily the MEC, in order to give the country the boost it needs. Even better, I worked with him in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where we tended to understand the underlying problem in this country. Corruption has made Lesotho what it is today so I want to align myself with people that fight against it.
By fighting against corruption, does it imply that the current government is corrupt?
There are still instances of corruption but not at the same levels as we saw during the so-called 4 x 4 government. There is some improvement on that but there are reports of corruption that we get especially when working in the PAC. There are still issues I still have to follow up with regards to allegations of corruption. There is a slight improvement I must accept.
Why did you leave Mahao for the MEC?
I must say I have always wanted to work with the MEC for a while now. It was simply a question of time. However, I still had strong alliances with Ntate Mahao’s group so much that by the time they were packing to leave the ABC it would have been thought that I would leave with them regardless of some developments which had already discouraged me. At some point, a WhatsApp group was created and my number was left out. There were other instances where I would get sidelined from meetings I knew they had.
As a matter of fact, I would learn from you reporters that they had held meetings amongst themselves without me. It is only about a week ago when they were preparing to leave the ABC, and they thought that I would leave with them but I told them No, I can’t go with you people. I told them that they had already sidelined me and that they no longer needed me. That is also when they told me the truth that the fact that I had stood for elections for the deputy speaker, it had been the decision rather conclusion in the government party’s caucus as to who would be elected deputy speaker.
However, there was a great encouragement from a number of them that I should stand which I did but little did I know that my group (that was just a small faction) within the ABC felt offended that I had stood for the post, although some had actually voted for me. So that is how and why I left them because to keep such alliances was no longer safe. My political career is now much clearer and this should be the last round in my political journey. Age also has caught up with me. However there are really no guarantees, something might arise in the future.
Bullet-proofing your online data
ROMA – Dr Makhamisa Senekane, a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Electronics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is assessing a new way of bullet-proofing your online information to ensure it is safe.
When you send sensitive information online, such as banking information, there is a way to hide that information from crooks.
“However,” he says, “some methods of hiding information (encryption) are very difficult to bullet-proof. That is why we are assessing a new way of bullet-proofing the security of your online experience.”
In the world of information hiding (encryption), you are sending the information from this side and your name is Alice.
And the one who receives the information on the other side is called Bob (Robert).
As far as Alice and Bob are concerned, one can sleep peacefully at night, these folks cause no problems whatsoever.
But then comes the third person called Eve (Eavesdropper, if you know what we mean?) and everything turns upside-down.
Eve is interested in getting the message that Alice is sending to Bob, so that she (Eve) can use this message for her personal gain.
That message may as well be a password you use to log into your online banking system.
If Eve is successful, you may wake up one day with all your money wiped off from your bank account in one stroke.
Now you know why the gurus, like Dr Senekane, are working day and night to make sure that that just won’t happen, if possible.
First, let’s consider one of the normal approaches which Senekane says it’s hard to prove their security.
Rest assured, we are using the simplest examples, in real life, it is more complex.
Suppose Alice is sending a number 10 to Bob on the other side of the online device.
But both know that Eve, that shady character, is waiting like a hungry shark on the route between them, to devour the information.
Hiding now begins.
The computer system generates the information called security keys.
Let’s say it gives the first key to Alice as the number 3 and the second key to Bob as the number 7.
“Prime numbers, those numbers such as 2, 3, 7, 11, 13, 17, the numbers that can only be divided by 1 or themselves, are often preferred because, as they get bigger, they are often hard to deal with,” Senekane says.
A bit of maths here but a simple one will suffice.
On the side of Alice, 10 is raised to power 3 times 7 (Remember 3 for Alice and 7 for Bob).
So 3 times 7 is 21.
So 10 is raised to power 21 which makes the number 1000000000000000000000, that is, 1 followed by 21 zeros.
When Eve the crook tries to steal the information, she comes across this ginormous number.
She is fooled because she doesn’t know that actually, that number represents 10.
When this mammoth number reaches Bob’s side of the system, Bob’s side has two advantages.
It “knows” Bob’s own key, 7, and it “knows” Alice’s key, 3.
Immediately, it can tell that there was a number which was raised to power 3 times 7—a number that was raised to power 21.
To arrive to this mammoth number (1 with 21 zeros), it can only mean that 10 was raised to power 21.
Now it is clear, Alice sent Bob the number 10!
But it appeared to Eve as a huge number she could not make sense out of.
Not so fast.
It is not difficult to see that should Eve have access to both Alice and Bob’s keys, that is 3 and 7 respectively, she doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize the hidden number sent was actually 10.
“That is why we need to hide these keys also, 3 and 7 and that is the most difficult part,” Dr Senekane says.
“It is hard to prove mathematically, that Eve can’t find the keys and use them for her own benefit.”
That is why he is assessing the use of quantum physics.
In this case, another line is created between Alice and Bob to exchange keys.
But the keys are sent, not as numbers but as photons (very tiny particles that make up light).
The number of particles interpreted in the binary format, are translated to either 3 or 7 for Alice and Bob.
But here is the big trick for Eve.
Photons are quantum particles (that is enough).
When you try to measure them they become something else.
So when Eve tries to measure these particles, they lose their identity (from quantum to classical) and the Bob’s side immediately realises that Eve interfered and the whole transaction stops.
What matters, is not so much that Eve did not see the information.
It is that we can detect that she saw the information and we can stop her on her tracks.
So Dr Senekane and the team are working to ensure that the techniques used to generate these keys using quantum physics are indeed mathematically provably secure.
This is to ensure that if the techniques are implemented correctly, the only way that Eve can interfere without being detected is by violating the fundamental laws of nature; a feat that is quite impossible.
The electronic ticket
ROMA – THATO Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng, two National University of Lesotho (NUL) trained computer enthusiasts, are introducing eventspoynt, your electronic ticket to your favourite events.
It is fully paperless!
You buy your ticket online, you pay online with either M-Pesa or Ecocash or even your bank account and, listen to this one, you only bring your phone to the event!
No paper. Nothing!
Just your phone!
So you are one of those in the Born After Technology (BAT) generation who is baffled by the prevalence of paper-based tickets in the 21st century?
Or, are you, perhaps, one of those hardworking fellows who like organizing events but get frustrated when potential clients blame distance or even obscurity, of your ticket selling outlet?
Or maybe you are just a good old environmental enthusiast bewildered by the ever-declining forest resources that help keep our atmospheric greenhouse gases balanced—and you want to see paperless technology reinforced, bit by bit?
Thato Rammoko and Mohale Molieleng have a solution.
“I am a computer trained hip-hop artist,” Rammoko said in an interview.
“It turns out those double passions, computer and hip-hop, combine in him to create the product we are introducing today,” he said.
Everybody somehow knows a thing or two about Lesotho’s rising hip-hop music.
But have you heard a thing or two about the music from an insider?
Okay, listen to Rammoko relate.
“Outside my technology life, I am a hip-hop artist,” he said.
“Some people call our fast-moving music industry sotho-hop.”
In a nutshell, it is a version of hip-hop delivered in a combination of Sesotho and English or in Sesotho only.
It drives young people crazy!
But behind the vibe, pop and fanfare, there are glaring cracks.
“It is an industry that is moving fast, but with no financial rewards in the end,” said Rammoko.
‘In this industry, it is not uncommon for you to be famous, have your music played on radios, TV and all over, while you are broke.”
‘It is a survival industry!”
He added in a tone layered with determination to transform the status-quo.
Here are the problems.
Lack of proper copyright law means “you can sell just one CD for M100, and the next thing you hear your music played across the country, while you remain with that measly M100 you started with, in your pocket”.
Your CD has been copied!
So they have a strategy, they no longer make money through selling CDs.
They give them for free and then organize live events.
“But this alternative is no picnic either,” Rammoko added, holding his breath.
Fraud, fraud, fraud, is a problem here.
“When you are on a stage delivering music to your fans, you can see the hundreds and hundreds in the adoring crowd, only to receive income that clearly doesn’t correspond to the numbers.”
“It leaves you wondering, what happened there—we mean, like— at the gate?”
Oop! Eventspoynt jumps in at this point.
It is a brilliant solution, not only for hip-hop events but for all kinds of events.
Doing it is as simple as ABC.
You go online—register.
Then you choose your event, and the kind of ticket you want to buy, e.g. VIP, Goldern Circle or normal ticket.
Then you pay the given price with your M-Pesa, Ecocash or through your bank account.
During the paying process, a unique number, called order number, is generated.
This you use as a reference when you pay in any of those options.
Once they receive your payment, Eventspoynt folks confirm both by your email and by your order number and your e-ticket is sent to your email.
You can either print it (but please don’t, save the trees), or you can leave it on your phone.
When time comes for the event, you show up with your phone on hand [or your printed paper if you are the Born Before Technology (BBT)].
And here is Rammoko again: “In your e-ticket, there is a code called QR code.”
That is Quick Response two dimensional bar code, it determines if or not you will enter the event.
“We scan the code, in your electronic PDF ticket on your phone or on you printed paper. For scanning we use any phone that has a camera, as long as an app is installed there, to recognise the QR code.”
This time around, no money is exchanging hands.
Thus fraud is kept at bay.
It is stress-free for both the buyers and sellers of the tickets.
All you need to attend you favourite show is to have a phone and money in your M-Pesa account.
That is it!
It doesn’t get easier than that!
The beauty of this system is that it is versatile – all kinds of event organisers can use it as a tool.
And you can buy a ticket, while in any corner of the Mountain Kingdom, or beyond.
Eish! Those are NUL trained computer gurus for you!
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